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On Sunday afternoon, Ian and I went to see The Adventures of Tintin (in 2d), our first British moviegoing experience.  I am a serious Tintin enthusiast, having read every book I could get my hands on as a child (I would ride my bike to the Alliance Francaise on Capitol Drive, which always had a small collection on sale for $7 each).  At the age of 24, I spent hours in a Tintin exhibit in the Pompidou Centre in Paris – my family sighed as I turned to each new exhibit item and prepared to pore over it.

I didn’t even really consider whether or not I would like the Tintin movie; I think it was a foregone conclusion that I would.  I haven’t read “The Secret of the Unicorn,” from which most of the movie is drawn, in about 2 decades, so I more interested in seeing how they captured the essence of Tintin and his world.  In some respects, the movie is completely breathtaking.  The animation is exquisite and the action sequences retain all of the imagination that Herge brought to the original.  Tintin is still baby-faced but of indeterminate age, and the world he lives in feels sweetly retro and vintage rather than dated.

Its also amazing to think how far animation has come in the last fifteen years.  Remember how Toy Story (the first one) avoided human faces as much as possible?  Yeah, that doesn’t happen here.  The characters, while clearly still animated, are given close-ups galore, and manage to look lifelike-ish while still retaining their original feeling.

My biggest complaint with the movie is that its relentless (and gorgeous) action sequences leave little room for Herge’s humor.  Bianca Castafiore (the movie’s only female character) is hilarious in the books; here she is an afterthought.  Thompson and Thomson’s trademark incompetence is very much on display, but their slapstick and wordplay is glossed over and the movie’s only attempt at comic relief falls flat.  Their characters don’t require a lot of development, but in the movie they are never given room to breathe, and it wastes the talent of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, who are both really funny.

Thompson & Thomson from "Tintin and the Blue Lotus"

On the whole, however, I think the movie was a wonderful recreation of the books, true to the spirit of Tintin and Herge.  “The Adventures of Tintin” is intended to be the first in a trilogy; the next movie will draw heavily on “Red Rackham’s Treasure” and I am already excited about it.  While I am not necessarily a huge proponent of 3d, I do think that if I see the movie again (and I might, because I’m unemployed), I’ll spring for it. There are a couple of places in the movie (including Captain Haddock’s dream sequence, involving a ship riding through sand dunes) where 3d would be pretty incredible.

“The Adventures of Tintin” will be released in the US on December 21. View the trailer below.

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