Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I know very little about Tintin.

And that's just the way I like to come to most movies - ignorant. Let the work tell me its own story, I say, without being pre-empted or worse sabotaged by secondary sources.

In Tintin's case, in the 1980s I'd watched the TV cartoons of The Secret Of The Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure stripped on BBC1 in the 3:55pm slot after The Magic Roundabout. Despite my detailed recall of the TV schedules those weeks, my grey matter's stored data on the actual programmes is a lot vaguer. (much like the BBC's own archives...)

My brain retains the deafening announcer on the opening credits, a guy smashing a log at the camera, and that the two tales ran on from each other, but that's about all. Oh, and that the dog was called Snowy rather than Milou. And longtime pal Mr Monty once mentioned on Radio Cracker how 'Tintin' is correctly pronounced, but now my memory on the subject really is drained.

So even though I had seen a version of this story before, I was now in the ideal situation of having forgotten it - result!

The movie's hype-machine had other ideas though.

I should have been safe from spoilers in the cinema. However just as the film was about to begin, Rank Screen Advertising actually showed us an advert for M&Ms, which featured clips of the upcoming movie, along with interviews with its stars.


Yellow: "Hey, why weren't Tintin and Snowy on the red carpet?"

Red: "Well they're just characters. Y'know - made with computers."

Just what was the point of that? Did they expect me to get up and go buy a ticket to the film that I already had a ticket to? Or maybe to miss the film in favour of buying some M&Ms? No wonder they call it rank advertising. (6/10)

After all that deconstruction they actually had to gall to flash up a caption daring me to somehow still be able to "Enjoy the film". Well, I certainly won't be buying any M&Ms for a while. They now owe me a part-refund of my ticket.

By the way, M&Ms are manufactured in a big metal machine, they're coloured brown, yellow, green, red, orange and blue, and they all taste of milk chocolate.

I had also been told about all the wonderful motion capture involved in shooting this movie, which once the film had begun compelled me to think of the actors wearing those reflector thingies. Were they the same actors as the ones doing the voices, or different, more specialised physical performers? Were they doubling up? Please, don't tell me these things, I just want to watch Tintin and believe that he's real.

In the event, the mundane opening scenes did indeed look so real that I had to also wonder why they had not just gone out and shot it in the usual way. The animation looked fantastic, the closest to believable that I've ever seen. However when Milou / Snowy began to chase a cat around, the jump from realistic motion capture to more stylised aeronautics transformed the feel to more that of a Dreamworks flick.

I also knew that this had been principally scripted by Doctor Who's current head writer Steven Moffat, so I kept expecting a mysterious child in a spacesuit to ring up. Unusually, this didn't happen, not even when Tintin was breaking into the spooky Marlinspike Hall. But somewhere off-screen there was one, I could tell.

I suppose the enormous irony here is that, at the outset, I actually needed some off-the-screen information, specifically to tell me where the film was set. The characters seemed to be English, but the location seemed to be France. Afterwards someone told me that it had been Belgium. Just where in the film did they get that information from? I missed it.

I didn't follow the story here (I'm no good at mysteries as you can probably tell from the preceding four sentences) but I did thoroughly enjoy the style of this. The opening credits and initial shot of Tintin's portrait looked respectful, the animation has a distinctive style all of its own, and the direction…


There are endless shots through diegetic glass lenses, beautiful scene-transitions, and points-of-view that made me feel as though I was flying. Action sequence after action sequence had us whirl around the location in long continuous takes, making the adventure a rollercoaster ride in more ways than one. Yes I was watching it in 3D, but frankly it wanted those Super X flight-simulator seats that shake you around too. I was feeling seasick in a good way.

There are some nice lines, clear intelligent characters, and thankfully no formulaic love interest to gunge the momentum up. Overall I enjoyed the whole thing start to finish, including the subtlety of faces that were reserved enough to only pull minor expressions.

I have no idea how true this is to the original strips, or even in what ways it maybe should be, but I did have a good time tonight, and look forward to the next one.

Not that I want to know anything about it, thanks.

(available here)

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