adventures of tintin quarantine stream

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: The Adventures of Tintin

Where You Can Stream It: Amazon Prime Video

The Pitch: Steven Spielberg’s first animated film is a rollicking, action-packed adventure based on the comic series created by  Belgian cartoonist Hergé. It’s a better Indiana Jones movie than the actual Indiana Jones movie Spielberg released in the 21st century, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: If there’s such a thing as an “underrated” Steven Spielberg movie, this might be it. The film was by no means a flop, but it seems to never be brought up when people are discussing Spielberg’s canon, and that’s a damn shame, because Tintin is fun. In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable films of Spielberg’s entire career, as the animation frees him up to go completely wild and create shots he could never create in live-action.

Hello everyone. I run a podcast called 21st Century Spielberg, wherein I revisit the often misunderstood 21st-century filmography of Mr. Steven Spielberg. The next episode is focused on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Adventures of Tintin, which means I had to revisit both of those movies to prepare. I won’t talk about Crystal Skull right now – so much has been said already. But in revisiting Tintin, I was utterly enchanted.

I had seen the film before, and I remember enjoying it, but revisiting it made me appreciate how wonderful it really is. I shouldn’t have to tell you that Steven Spielberg is a director who knows what he’s doing, but for all his talents, he had never made a fully animated film before Tintin. That could’ve been a daunting experience, and the end results could’ve been little more than noble effort.

But Spielberg really takes to animation here. For one thing, by having the film animated, he’s able to ignore the rules of gravity and create thrilling, fluid scenes where the action – and the camera – is constantly moving. And yet all the action is clear and coherent. And there’s a lot of it. In fact, I’d say this movie is made up almost entirely of action set-pieces. And they’re all wildly entertaining, with Spielberg flying the camera here and there, zooming in through bottles and water bubbles, flipping and zipping about like a bat out of hell. Best of all: the animation looks greatTintin employed motion-capture, and I don’t know about you, but when I think of motion-capture films I think of the curious experiments of Spielberg’s pal Robert Zemeckis. I’m talking stuff like Beowulf and The Polar Express, two movies that look terrible (I think Polar Express is one of the worst-looking Hollywood movies in recent memory, but I digress).

Spielberg has none of the problems Zemeckis had – Zemeckis’ motion-capture characters often look slightly off, and weightless. Spielberg subverts that by embracing the cartoon nature of the characters. They move like flesh and blood people, but their faces are caricatures – and it works.

The plot involves intrepid journalist Tintin (Jamie Bell) trying to track down three model ships that can lead to hidden treasure. Along the way he clashes with the dastardly Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (a delightfully wicked Daniel Craig), and befriends the constantly drunk Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). But honestly, the plot is secondary. It’s just there so Spielberg can create one wham-bam action sequence after another, much of it augmented with Buster Keaton-style physical comedy.

If you’ve forgotten about The Adventures of Tintin, or skipped the movie entirely because the animation didn’t appeal to you, I urge you to check it out. You’re in for a treat.

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