Friday, January 13, 2012

The Adventures of Tin Tin

Genre: Action/Adventure, Family
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.
Release Date: December 21, 2011

Summary: The Adventures of Tin Tin, based on HergĂ©’s classic comic series, follows the young reporter as he attempts to reveal the mystery of The Unicorn. Tin Tin’s (Jamie Bell) purchase of a model ship from a local flea market instantly attracts the attention of unwanted admirers wishing to acquire his find. Soon after the ship is stolen from his home, Tin Tin is kidnapped and delivered into an adventure marked by opera, pirates, and buried treasure. His two companions on this journey are his faithful dog, Snowy, and a drunken ship captain, named Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), whose memory and family history hold the key to the mystery. The villainous Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who also possesses an important ancestral past, always seems to stay one step ahead of Tin Tin and one step closer to the prize. Although he has every opportunity to turn back, Tin Tin is never deterred and continually chooses to see the mystery through to the end.

Performances: Though it seems difficult to discuss performances when the movie’s actors are animated characters, in this type of “Performance Capture” film, actors provide not only the voices for their characters, but the physical actions, as wellessentially performing as they would live.

Some characters seemed much more realistic than others, owing to both the style of animation used to create them, and to the actor behind each character’s performance. Tin Tin possessed a straight-lined, less detailed appearance and, although this was in keeping with his comic book image, it unfortunately prohibited Bell from “animating” the character outside of its cartoonish constraints. In contrast, Captain Haddock seemed to burst from the screen, due to his strikingly detailed animation and to Serkis’ expressive performance, which provided Haddock with an absolutely vibrant soul.

Analysis: Spielberg recently commented that had wanted to tell this story for years, but was waiting for the appropriate technology to be developed in order to film it in the way that he had always imagined. Once you see this movie, you will understand why. What was achieved could not have been done using live actors, nor could it have been properly accomplished with past computer animation.

Other than the fact that the film was obviously geared toward male viewers, (there were no women in the movie, save one), it is difficult to determine the filmmakers’ intended audience. While children seemed to be the aim of the quick and continuous action and physical comedy, many situations (such as murder and the constant intoxication of Haddock) seemed inappropriate for younger audiences.
Uncharacteristic of a Spielberg project, this movie does not delve to deeper emotional levels and instead opts for more superficial revelations to tie the story together. The non-stop action was appropriate and never made the movie feel overstuffed, however, a few less action scenes and a couple of additional scenes allowing for further character exploration could have raised the emotional stakes of the story greatly.

Final Wrap: Truth be told, I had no intentions of seeing this movie. I did not enjoy previous attempts at this style of animation and the story (what little I knew of it from the advertising) failed to interest me. However, a friend finally convinced me to go and I am glad that he did. Within minutes, I was amazed by the animation (a significant improvement to the eerie Polar Express style) and was immediately caught up in the adventure. (Of course, with a director like Spielberg, computer animation by Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, and music by John Williams, it is hard not to be.) Aside from the apparent and surprising lack of an emotional core, Spielberg’s first attempt at directing an animated film was a success. This technological marvel was an exciting adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones— it was just not quite as animated.