The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn (REVIEW)

The Adventures of Tintin:  The Secret of The Unicorn (REVIEW)

by Henry Brown – 7/10

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is the latest in comic adaptations, bringing Herge’s (aka: Georges Remi) much loved series to the big screen. Detective Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his faithful dog Snowy become embroiled in a search for the Unicorn, a sunken ship rumoured to be possessed of great treasures. Teaming up with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), an ancestor of the Unicorn’s late owner, Tintin must contend with the sinister plans of Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig), who is also on the hunt. Will Tintin prevail? Will Haddock drink himself to death? And will Spielberg score enough at the box office to secure that all important franchise?

The Secret of the Unicorn isn’t a straight adaptation of a single comic; rather it’s a mash up of several stories, featuring elements from The Crab with the Golden Claws, Land of the Black Gold, Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. On this front, the British writing team responsible (Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish) does a reasonable job, crafting an epic journey across deserts, oceans and foreign lands, that’s full of humour, action and adventure. All the series’ iconic characters are introduced effortlessly, without the typically laborious exposition that such adaptations often suffer from. As such, I imagine newcomers to the world of Tintin will quickly find themselves immersed.

For a director with such a long and illustrious film career, it’s surprising that The Secret of the Unicorn is director Steven Spielberg’s first animated film. And even this was originally meant to be live action: fellow director Peter Jackson convinced him that a motion capture CGI blend would be the best representation of Hergé’s work (of course securing a contract for WETA Digital in the process).

It is on this point that I feel the film suffers. Animation is generally used to convey a visual style that is unobtainable with live action, allowing the film makers greater creative scope. For the most part, The Secret of the Unicorn does not utilise this opportunity, instead attempting a distinct realism in terms of character movement and facial expressions. So the potential absurdity and fun craziness commonly associated with an animated kid’s movie is lost, instead replaced with a far more serious, realistic feel. Similarly, the film loses out on the merits of a live action production, predominantly with character performance.

Caught in this twilight zone of pseudo animation, the film simply felt odd and I couldn’t help but question the decision not to do a conventional shoot. Not that The Secret of the Unicorn looks bad: in fact, it sports some of the best CGI animation I’ve seen to date. But ultimately, visual quality is irrelevant if the visuals themselves aren’t appropriate. Imagine an animated motion captured version of Indiana Jones and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

While I’m on a film downer, I may as well mention John William’s distinctly unremarkable score. While competent, it lacks the powerful main themes that are his deserved trademark (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman etc). What we have is a succession of well crafted, yet entirely forgettable pieces of incidental backing music that does little for the film.

In summary, The Secret of the Unicorn is for the most part entertaining and conveys the main elements of the comic. However, the animation issue cannot be overlooked, down grading the film to a notch below what I would expect from Spielberg. Hopefully future sequels will see this error rectified.



About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

One Response to The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn (REVIEW)

  1. I didn’t have a problem with the animation at all, the fact that the characters are taken from a comic I think completely justify the motion capture/animation option. I don’t thing that you can compare with Indy, because he wasn’t a comic book character. As for the lack of absurdity, I thought the motorbike chase while trying to recover the maps from the clutches of a falcon was as crazy as anything Pixar have come up with for a while!

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