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ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, THE: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN

SYNOPSIS:
When young reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) comes across a model of the three masted Unicorn, his curiosity is aroused after he discovers it has a secret concerning an ancient tale about a pirate and stolen treasure. Villainous Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig) is keen to get his hands on the model ship and believes Tintin has information leading to the treasure. With the help of his loyal dog Snowy, the salty, whisky-loving Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and bumbling detectives Thompson & Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), Tintin travels across the world, outwitting and outrunning his enemies in a breathless chase to find the final resting place of the Unicorn, a shipwreck that may hold the key to vast fortune . . . and an ancient curse.

Review by Louise Keller:
The distinctive touch of genius is on display in this rollicking 3D adventure in which acclaimed Belgian artist Hergé's comic-book hero Tintin solves a riddle involving pirates, a curse, lost treasure and a dastardly villain. In an inspired decision by director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson, motion capture is used to bring the idealistic, investigative reporter Tintin to life, alongside his loyal fox terrier Snowy and the rambunctious, whisky-loving Captain Haddock.

It's the perfect medium, being far enough removed from reality to satisfy and offer credibility to those familiar with Tintin, yet realistic enough to allow us to connect with and embrace the characters. The affection the filmmakers feel for the characters is obvious; extraordinary care and attention to detail have been given. There's a constant sense of motion, complemented by John Williams' lively score that scampers harmoniously alongside the action. The film is breathtaking, with nicely developed and accessible characters, an inventive script enabling a never-ending stream of innovative ideas that are executed with sophistication. Tintin is pure magic.

In a brilliant opening sequence, Tintin's origins are established with symbolic implied action solving crimes and mysteries shown in silhouette. There's a tip of the hat to the comic book before a character snapshot, describing the ever-curious, logically-minded nature of the boyish protagonist with the baby face and distinctive, trademark ducktail hair, whose assignments are completed with a mix of reporter's skill and amateur sleuth.

We first meet Tintin having his portrait sketched in a marketplace that looks like Montmartre. There's a lovely moment when the artist shows the sketch: Tintin looks exactly as he does in the original comic books. We don't have to wait long for the adventure to start: it is at that market that Tintin spies and buys a pristine replica of the Unicorn, an ancient ship with a secret. The villainous Sakharine (Daniel Craig), ancestor of the pirate who captured the vessel back in the 17th century is after the replica too, which has a secret, as Tintin is about to discover.

Kidnapped and bundled on a steamer, Tintin meets the larger-than-life Captain Haddock, who is wedded to his whisky bottle and whose memory is so poor that he has forgotten what he wanted to remember. As the descendent of the infamous captain of the Unicorn, only he knows the answer to the riddle - if only he could remember.

In one of the film's many highlights, Haddock uses his alcohol-breath to give transfer a whiff of fuel into a flailing airplane's fuel tank. Perhaps the most spectacular moment comes as the present morphs into the past as the steamer becomes the ancient Unicorn, magically crashing onto the sand dunes. I also love the scene in Morocco when the soprano Bianca Castafiore (Kim Stengel) lets her vocal chords rip, shattering glasses, chandeliers and a bullet-proof container housing a precious item, at the precise right moment.

Andy Serkis, sporting a Scottish brogue, takes the honours in his role of Captain Haddock (and his ancestor), as the film's most memorable character. Daniel Craig excels as the snarling evil Sakharine (and pirate) while Jamie Bell is perfect as the wholesome Tintin. Although he doesn't actually speak, Snowy the pouch is a scene stealer, acting as Tintin's shadow and always has a paw in the action. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost offer good comic relief as the bulbous-nosed, bumbling mustachioed policemen Thompson and Thomson, whose slapstick is a delight.

In an Indiana Jones-like adventure that takes us on the high seas, the sweeping desert and exotic destinations in North Africa, the story soars with action and humour, never compromising its themes of friendship and promoting its intrinsic sense of righting the wrongs of the past. Tintin's faith in Captain Haddock is as much of a shot in the arm as his optimism in the world at large.

I was first introduced to the Tintin books as a child growing up in the Belgian Congo, devouring each adventure with enthusiasm. The essence of the characters, the story and the cultural sensibility is perfectly captured here.

First published in French and written between 1930 and 1976, over 350 million copies of the comic book series authored by Georges Rémi (penname Hergé) has been sold and translated in over 80 languages. The stories are a lucky dip of swashbuckling adventures and mysteries set around the world, some with splashes of satire and political commentary but often containing slapstick comedy. Three stories (The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure) have been seamlessly integrated for this highly anticipated first in the new Spielberg Jackson franchise. Hergé would have approved.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Astonishing is the only word for the motion capture-delivered world of Tintin, a splendid adventure that has all the classic elements - and plenty of charm, wit and straight out humour. Belgian artist Hergé created the character in 1929 and Spielberg & Peter Jackson have smudged the geographical origins as well as the cultural ones - but to the film's benefit. Tintin lives in what could be a European town, but with English elements, likewise the characters, down to the accents.

This is all important for those who have loved the comic books on which it's based; while the film doesn't (can't) exactly capture all that we read and imagined, at least it doesn't muck it up or debase it. Both Tintin (Jamie Bell) and Capt Haddock (Andy Serkis) capture the characters' spirits - in the case of Haddock it's mostly via whisky. (Is some overanxious wowser going to be a spoilsport and condemn the film for its humorous treatment of alcoholic excess?)

The story is clearly and energetically told, what little violence takes place is muted and more comedic than confronting.

The sense of adventure is elevated by an epic visual style and matching music, while the action is kept focused on character. The film brings this much loved, enormously popular character and his adventures to an even larger public - who should be very pleased.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, THE: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN (PG)
(US/NZ, 2011)

CAST: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Carly Elwes, Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Sebastian Roche, Mackenzie Crook, Gad Elmaleh, Mark Ivanir

PRODUCER: Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

SCRIPT: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Janusz Kaminski

EDITOR: Michael Kahn

MUSIC: John Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Andrew L. Jones (supervising art director)

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2011






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