The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (2011)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/6/12
Director: Steven Spielberg
Music: John Williams
Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

The internationally popular Belgian comic book character Tintin makes it to the big screen, courtesy of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. The result is a visually gorgeous action oriented adventure, that sadly lacks any personality or soul. It's also the most violent film I've seen all year, which I found especially distasteful given the light-hearted tone and execution of the film. I'm unfamiliar with the character of Tintin, and no effort is spent to familiarize the audience with him. He's apparently a teenager who lives by himself and has no family, apart from a dog named Snowy. He's a well respected journalist and a keen detective, and is skilled at driving cars and flying planes. He also carries a gun and is an excellent marksman, which is very risky and unusual to see in today's cinematic climate. The film starts out innocently enough as Tintin (Jamie Bell) is wandering around an open-air market and comes across a model of a ship. As soon as he buys it, two other parties become VERY interested in it and try to buy it off of him. He refuses to sell it, at which point his life becomes endangered. A very dangerous man named Sakharine (Daniel Craig) will stop at nothing to get the ship, which contains a hidden treasure map. Good fortune and dumb luck keep Tintin and Snowy alive long enough to have a globe-trotting adventure in search of the treasure.

The whole thing feels like the adventures of a young Indiana Jones, but the goofy humor and excessive cartoon violence derail any attempts to take it seriously. The characters are either annoying or uninteresting, making it difficult to identify with any of them or support their efforts. What disturbed me the most was the film's treatment of violence without consequence. Perhaps it's the combination of cartoon violence with a photo-realistic aesthetic that's unsettling. When a film's presentation approaches photo-realism, you become much more critical about the rules of physics and expect things to behave and react a certain way. "Tintin" pushes that envelope to the point where suspension of disbelief falls apart and detaches the viewer from the experience. I find it sad that I'm no longer able to take myself back to a pre-adolescent mindset and enjoy the juvenile execution and carefree nature of Tintin's world. But is that my failure, or the filmmaker's?