Early Buzz: ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ Reviews Praise Adventure, Are Cautious About Performance Capture
Posted on Monday, October 17th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
The first review of Steven Spielberg‘s The Adventures of Tintin hit last week, and we offered up a few choice quotes from that generally very positive assessment. Over the weekend quite a few other reviews hit, and we’ve sampled them below. The aggregate impression is generally positive, with a lot of praise aimed at the energy and adventure setpieces. Not everyone is taken with the performance capture technology that powers the film. That’s to be expected, and I’m fairly impressed that more reviewers seem to be accepting of that process than put off by it. The film opens on October 26 in the UK and won’t hit the US until December 21. Get a sample of the early reviews below.
The most positive reviews pit Tintin up against Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, with the gist being that with this film Spielberg has made the real return to serial-inspired action that audiences would have liked to see with Indy 4.
And we’re off on a breathlessly fast-paced mystery tour that draws from three separate Herge adventures, introduces Tintin to sozzled Scottish sidekick Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis, richly amusing), crosses oceans, deserts and sultanate kingdoms in search of missing treasure in creaky biplanes and sidecar motorcycles, and delivers one thrilling set-piece after another in a way that suggests that Spielberg has not only pulled out his Indiana Jones toolbox but has decided to pack anything and everything into Tintin that the logistical, budgetary realities of shooting live action won’t let him do. Let off his leash, he’s clearly having a blast, and so do we.
Variety praises the tech,
Working hand-in-hand with [Peter] Jackson, however, the director and his team have deployed both technologies with subtle finesse throughout, exploiting 3D’s potential just enough to make the action scenes that much more effective without overdoing it; likewise, the motion-capture performances have been achieved with such exactitude they look effortless, to the point where the characters, with their exaggerated features, almost resemble flesh-and-blood thesps wearing prosthetic makeup.
Serving up a good ol’ fashioned adventure flick that harkens back to the filmmaker’s action-packed, tongue-in-cheek swashbucklers of the 1980s, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a visually dazzling adaptation of the legendary – at least outside the US – comic book series by Belgian artist Herge.
The Guardian is a lot less positive, awarding the film only two stars out of five. The review first compares the film to a late unpublished Tintin plot with “an evil scheme to abduct Tintin and encase him in liquid polyester. The gallant boy reporter would therefore become a “living sculpture”, beautiful but dead.” It then goes on to say,
Yet while the big set pieces are often exuberantly handled, the human details are sorely wanting. How curious that Hergé achieved more expression with his use of ink-spot eyes and humble line drawings than a bank of computers and an army of animators were able to achieve. On this evidence, the film’s pioneering “performance capture” technique is still too crude and unrefined. In capturing the butterfly, it kills it too.
The Telegraph is also less than thrilled, awarding the film a 3/5 score, and targeting the performance capture and subsequent animation:
The main personality-stifler is the film’s use of performance capture; the method by which the cast’s movements and expressions have been translated into computer-generated visuals. However much more successful the technique is here than it has been elsewhere, crucially it’s not successful enough: even if Jamie Bell wasn’t so monotonously earnest as Tintin, he’d still look about as conscious as a bollard with a quiff… Only Andy Serkis, a performance capture veteran, convincingly breathes life into his character’s pixels, delivering a full-blooded and frequently hilarious turn as Tintin’s sozzled ally Captain Haddock.
One LA Times blog wonders if the familiarity with the source comics enjoyed by audiences in Europe and the UK will mean that the film has a more difficult road ahead outside the US. With most US audiences being unfamiliar with Herge’s stories, there may not be as much criticism of the differences between the the pacing and characters on the screen and in Herge’s original pages.
We’ll leave off with an uptick from In Contention:
Spielberg was allegedly first drawn to Belgian author-artist Hergé’s classic boy-adventurer comics 30 years ago, after some critics made the comparison in reviews of “Raiders of the Los Ark”; he’s held the film rights to the series, on and off, since 1983, himself visualising the films as “Indiana Jones for kids.” He’s had a long time to think about it, to put it lightly, and that thought process is visibly up there on the screen: as lovingly detailed a homage to the director’s own past glories as to the source material itself, the film is perhaps most notable for its lack of tonal compromise, and occasionally hampered by an urge to translate as many facets of the Tintin phenomenon as the markedly trim 106-minute film can hold. (It’s worth noting that “Tintin” is the shortest theatrical feature of Spielberg’s career; if the rigors and restrictions of motion-capture technology are what’s making him work this tidily, then bring on the future.)
Here’s a new poster from the film, via HitFix.