Given that Steven Spielberg first discovered Tintin after a French critic repeatedly referenced the beloved reporter’s exploits in his review of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it’s fitting that Spielberg invests some of that distinct Indiana Jones spirit into The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. A globetrotting escapade through exotic locations, the film is packed with thrilling chases and swashbuckling action atop rickety seaplanes and hulking steamers. Quirky characters are involved in solving an old-fashioned mystery about a hidden treasure without any reliance on modern gadgets, and even John Williams’ booming score has a nostalgic feel to it.
The first film in a planned trilogy – the second will be directed by The Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson who serves as a producer on this one – The Secret of the Unicorn is made using the increasingly popular performance-capture technology, that integrates live-action performances by actors into an animated universe. Doing the film in animation allows for the characters and the landscapes to look almost identical to the original comic book panels, which explains the stunning texture of this movie.
Tintin purists might grumble about a handful of liberties taken by the film’s writers in the process of turning three stories into one script, but Spielberg’s film stays true to the spirit of the books. Nowhere is this more evident than in the character of the disaster-prone-but-sporting Captain Haddock, who at one point uses his whiskey breath to refuel a stalling plane as it plunges towards the ocean. More comic relief is provided by bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), who sneak a few laughs with their synchronized asides.
Tintin himself remains a mostly blank character, not unlike the comic books. But Spielberg places him at the heart of a fast-paced, colorful adventure that is too much fun to resist. I’m going with four out of five for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. It’s the kind of film that’ll bring out the boy in you. Expect to have a big smile plastered on your face throughout.