With CGI and ‘performance capture’ trickery up his sleeve, Spielberg captivates the simple magic of Tintin with very few hiccups along the way, Siobhán McGuire writes.

Spielberg has rummaged through the treasure chest of Tintin classics and has come up trumps with The Adventures of Tintin.  For the film he combined the three adventures Hergé wrote during World War II; The Crab with The Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackman’s Treasure.  

The Adventures of Tintin fizzles into view after the fantastically mysterious James Bond – like opening credits play out.   Confused as to where exactly the opening scene is set one can only assume that it is in a sophisticated Belgium town drenched in European culture.

 A European artist sketches the ‘young boy-journalist’ in the midst of bargaining, serial pick-pocketing and curious customers.

This quaint market is perfectly animated; elegant, marble buildings sit decadently in the back drop and enchanting trinkets are stacked against golden-framed mirrors and on wooden table tops.  The cinematic experience is going splendidly until you’re suddenly slapped across the face with a bizzare image of some kind of strange man-boy, it’s at this point (and only at this point) that CGI intervention becomes painfully obvious.

The adventure begins when Tintin (Jamie Bell) spots a lavishly crafted ship and purchases it immediately.  He then suffers a series of household disturbances and harassment by panic-stricken businessmen who will pay anything to get their hands on the ‘Unicorn’ ship.  Tintin can't quite understand what is so special about this ship with the exception of its glorious beauty, and so feeds his curiosity in the one place that will ‘have the answers; no, not the internet, the library.  Spielberg triumphs in capturing traditional Europe that is unspoilt by the latest gadgets and gizmos such as plasma wise screens, mobile phones and slick iPads that have crept into everyday use. 

He discovers that the ship holds a hidden secret, literally.   When Tintin is captured he investigates the origins of ‘the Unicorn.’  On the cold, metal vessel 'Karaboudjan’ he encounters drunken scoundrel Captain Haddock, played by Andy Serkis.  The boozed up sailor has something Tintin doesn't have; personality. Tintin is the epitome of simplicity, very little defines him other than the fact like he's a curious man-child.  But the captain brings the adventure to life as both he and Tintin crusade through the desert. 

Film wizardry and special techniques add even more colour and excitement to the conquest and it’s no wonder why Spielberg wanted to direct this gem of a film. Tintin’s origins are a little off, Tintin was and always will be Belgian, yet Spielberg has turned him into a Brit! It seems slightly odd considering Tintin’s surroundings are clearly not situated in England.  Even so, Spielberg pays a tribute to Hergé, the creator of Tintin, in the opening scene, Hergé is the artist and the portrait is a picture of the original drawing of Tintin.

Although modern cinematic techniques carry Tintin into the 21st Century, Tintin still belongs to the 20th century, a time when newspaper comic – strips were one of the most valuable sources of entertainment.  And it was damn good entertainment too!