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Saturday, November 12, 2011

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(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 12 November 2011, retrieved from

Voice Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Cary Elwes, Kim Stengel

Director: Steven Spielberg

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn grips fans of the comic series from the moment the titles play. It’s nothing short of delightful to watch some of our favourite panels from the three books the movie is based on – The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure – come alive in what seems to be a fond tribute to Hergé.

The film teases the audience. As Tintin (Jamie Bell) takes his time making a hero’s appearance, we catch a glimpse of Aristides Silk (Toby Jones) and the blundering detective twins Thompson (Simon Pegg) and Thomson (Nick Frost). The boy reporter’s imagination is captured by the delicate scale model of a three-masted ship, and there begins an adventure that will pit him against Ivan Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig), lead him to his soon-to-be-best-friend Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis), introduce him to the arias of Bianca Castafiore (Kim Stengel) and take him to Bagghar, the land of Omar Ben Salaad (Gad Elmaleh).

The Haddock we meet here is the bumbling alcoholic, who is yet to transform into the sophisticated seafaring socialite of the later books. While the ethnicity of Haddock is never made quite clear in the series, Serkis voices him with a guttural mixture of a Scottish and Middle-Eastern accent, which works rather well. Through his frustrating memory lapses and sobriety-induced hallucinations, Haddock makes you treat him with the affectionate tolerance you would an eccentric, forgetful uncle.

Tintin's earnestness has always been endearing – a rare achievement for a long-serving cartoon character – perhaps because he had a foil, first in Snowy, and then in Captain Haddock. In the movie version, Snowy is less the sardonic canine than the playful-but-quick-thinking pet, but Tintin’s charm tides his character through, nevertheless.

The chemistry between Snowy and Haddock is brilliant even in animation, and it becomes apparent the first time they hear the ‘Milanese Nightingale’, Bianca Castafiore, whose cameo is hilarious in context. Fans of Tintin are sure to miss Professor Calculus, especially given the role he played in the drama centred around the home of the Captain’s ancestors, Marlinspike Hall. But the good news is that the moviemakers have said they plan to bring him in for the next adventure – a hint of what it could be comes in at the end of the movie. Campaigners for political correctness may object to the stereotyping of certain characters and places, but the filmmakers have only been faithful to Hergé’s perceptions.

Peter Jackson, whose company Weta Digital handled the computer graphics, leaves his signature in the sheer beauty of the frames. From the cast of the torchlight, to the glints in the characters’ eyes, to the reflection of a face in a bubble, mirror or window, to the distortion of objects through bottles and magnifying glasses, the animation is a treat. The segues between scenes are exquisite. One fight sequence, where five characters – including a bird – are chasing scrolls is so wonderfully captured that it makes you laugh, lean forward from the edge of your seat, and gasp with enchantment.

There is a tiny dose of innuendo, but it’s too subtle for children to catch, so parents needn’t worry about coming up with answers. The best part of The Adventures of Tintin is that even people who haven’t read the comics or watched the show will enjoy it.


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