Disappointment is a funny thing. I hesitate to ever use the word in my reviews, but there's an implication that just because a film didn't meet my expectation, there's something wrong with it. I'm a firm believer that if you walk into a film expecting A and you get B, that doesn't mean the film is bad; it just means it's not what you expected. Just because a trailer for YOUNG ADULT, for example, makes you think you're walking into a riotous comedy, and what you get is a sometimes-disturbing, dark story about an insane woman stalking her ex-boyfriend, does that make the move bad or just unexpected. Some people can't tell the difference, including me occasionally.
But the level of disappointment I felt at the Steven Spielberg-directed, Peter Jackson-produced THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN wasn't solely about expectations not being met; it was about missed opportunities and taking the animated format and squandering it on paint-by-numbers action sequences and flat, dull production design. Consider this: TINTIN (based on the comic books by Hergé) is an animated feature, one that in certain respects looks nearly photo realistic; you can literally imagine and execute any idea in the animated world. The limits are your imagination and nothing else. So why does the movie struggle so hard to do anything truly imaginative?
The story concerns Tintin, a young reporter (voiced by Jamie Bell) trying to uncover the mystery of three scrolls hidden inside model ships that seem to lead to the location of a long-lost hidden…something. Along his journey (with his trusted dog Snowy), he befriends a drunken sea captain (Andy Serkis), is aided by a pair of Interpol agents (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), and is pursued by the evil Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig). I don't have any complaints about the voice talents on hand, especially Craig, who really gets a shot at cutting loose as the villain of the piece.
Yes Tintin is after a good story, but really he's an adventure junkie. That's fine, but that basically makes the movie an episode of "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," a show I certainly liked but there was rarely anything creative done with the action sequences. With one or two exceptions, the action is reduced to shooting, car chases, blowing things up, and a tall ship battle with cannons and wood splintering and bodies going down in the sea.
I'm sure you've already heard about the seven-minute, no-cut action chase sequence through a town that is being flooded by a burst dam. That's by far the best sequence in the film and the only one that really takes advantage of its animated format. There's another interesting bit of action near the end of the film involving dueling port-side cranes, but even that seems rather clunky.
I've sat through THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN twice now, once with a group of critics and another time at Butt Numb-a-Thon, and my reaction was the same at both screenings. Blah! I was never engaged by these loosely realized characters that looked interesting but never did anything I care about. One other thing, I'm pretty certain Tintin is supposed to be a kid, probably in his late teens. If you can put a kid in that much peril and never really got me to care if he lives or dies or is gravely injured, there's something fundamentally wrong with your film.
I'd guess, younger audience members may not concern themselves with such issues and will probably get a great big kick out of this movie, but I was left high and dry, despite all the scenes set on the water. Perhaps the most shocking thing about THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (and one of the primary reason for my level of disappointment) is the strength of the writing team behind it--regular "Doctor Who" writer and creator of the new "Sherlock" television show Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright (who did such a remarkable job adapting SCOTT PILGRIM) and his frequent writing partner Joe Cornish (writer and director of ATTACK THE BLOCK and co-writer with Wright of the hopefully upcoming ANT-MAN movie).
That's quite a pedigree, and if you thought about it, it might boggle your mind that these three talented chaps are the ones that came up with standard-issue action screenplay. Throw in Spielberg and Jackson's names, and on paper at least, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN should have the greatest action movie every made. But the plot seems more interesting in blowing shit up than telling a story and giving us some sense of who these characters are and what helps them through a life that had known a great deal of pain. I wish I could report better news--actually I can. Spielberg has another film coming out in a couple of days, and that film did not disappoint in the slightest. More soon.