Tintin – Movie Review

5 Jan

So… got around to seeing the Adventures of Tintin recently. Waited till a weekday and caught the afternoon show to beat the crowds, but still had to wait around the block in a seemingly endless queue to get to the tickets. Grandmas and grandpas, mamas and papas and kids ranging all the way from tots to teens were there. The movie was going to cater to generations who grew up with Tintin as a comic book character as well as generations who would be getting their first exposure to Tintin – a tall order for anyone to fill but Spielberg and Jackson seem to have managed it.

I discovered and finished the entire Tintin series in my thirteenth year. Fell in love with Captain Haddock and laughed out loudly too many times in the “silent” library. Fortunately the librarian was very indulgent.
This is not the review of a movie buff – I read books, I don’t watch movies. I especially do not watch movie adaptations of books I like. Comic strip creators and writers generally worked on their own – their genius was their own, they didn’t have ‘team work’ to deal with and their resources were inexpensive paper and their own imagination. When film directors try to translate it, they are constrained by expenses of movie sets and having to co-ordinate a large number of people. It almost never works, there is at least one character or episode you’ll find that didn’t live up to the book or your imagination of how it was. And that’s in the better case scenarios. Usually the whole movie will be completely different from the book or a pale and ridiculous caricature of it.

Herge, the creator of Tintin shared this view too. He had not liked the movie / cartoon adaptations of his famous creation in his lifetime and had stipulated that no-one should continue the comic book series after his death. But late in life, he and Spielberg became mutual fans of each other and Herge is reported to have said that if anyone could make a successful screen adaptation of Tintin, it was Steven Spielberg. And so Spielberg was given the rights to produce a movie in 1983 (negotiations began only a short time before Herge’s death and was concluded soon afterwards). However it took the director 28 years to fulfill Herge’s belief in him.

Perhaps the wait was justified though! He was right in waiting for the right technology to come along before attempting it. Billions of blue blistering barnacles! That was one thumping good movie. The characters all lived up to my expectations as well as imagination of them – the bumbling Thomson and Thompson, the intrepid Tintin, the snooty yet childlike Bianca Castafiore (yes, they brought her in too)! Snowy actually superseded my conception and expectations of him. Perhaps Captain Haddock whom I remember as the witty and capable protagonist, who grappled admirably with the Thompsons and Bianca Castafiore in verbal skirmishes, was a tad disappointing in this screen adaptation as a bumbling alcoholic – but even he is a faithful representation of his first appearance in The Crab with the Golden Claws.
In fact he is kindly treated in the movie, showing flashes of the humour and intelligence he is depicted as having in some of the other books. The movie is an amalgamation of essentially three Tintin Books, The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure.

The plots have been extensively reworked but in a manner faithful to the style of the original creator. I don’t think Herge, despite his protective possessiveness over his prize creation would have objected. The movie is seamless drama from start to finish, going at a breakneck speed of adrenaline that sweeps the audience along with it. This is perhaps the most well liked as well as criticized aspect of the movie. Rotten Tomatoes, the well know film critiquing web site has chalked up 105 fresh tomatoes and 33 rotten tomatoes from its critics for this movie thus far. But whether the reviews sport a bright fresh tomato or a dirty green splotch, they almost all bring up the fast pace as a reasons for or against their liking the movie.
Personally I loved the pace – never a dull moment from start to finish, with the high drama being interspersed masterfully with comic touches that elicited resounding guffaws throughout the whole theatre, but if we are going to quibble, I could say some of the scenes weren’t “realistic.” But if you are at all used to a diet of Hindi movies, you wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the over-the-top fight scenes or gravity and other physics defying stunts. Anyway, it is essentially a children’s movie, even the adults and senior citizens who watched were just indulging their “inner child.” Or so I theorize. Children in the theatre certainly seemed to enjoy the movie but in one scene in the desert when they are almost dying of thirst, Tintin paradoxically congratulates the captain: “Congratulations Captain, you are finally sober.”
Piped up one small voice behind me, “Ammi, what did he just say?”
“He said, you are sober.”
“What’s sober?”
Hmm… Well that’s a new word and concept for him to learn. And he learnt it from a movie that’s the last thing from sober. Here’s to another generation of Tintin fans.

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