I've been hearing and reading quite a bit of negative feedback for the new film The Adventures of Tintin, particularly from US viewers. For some this may be expected. After all Tintin is not a name very familiar outside of Europe. However after having seen the film I find this lack of support for the film in the States surprising. I loved the film for a number of reasons, and none of them had anything to do with prior knowledge of the Tintin name. Sure I'd heard of Tintin before, I think I read a comic or two in primary school, but I would in no way consider myself a fan of the series. Yet the film still worked for me. And here is why:
Unbridled Creativity - This is Steven Spielberg's first foray into animation. And you can feel it... in a good way. It's like suddenly he has pulled out all the stops, anything is possible. Swooping cameras, beautifully unique (and even surreal) scene transitions, exciting, death defying chaotic action. It's all there in spades. You can just feel how much fun Spielberg is having in every frame of this film. He is like a gleeful kid getting to play in an amazing new toy box with amazing new possibilities. And it's infectious.
Darker Tone - Ok, so this is no Munich, but it certainly features a tone darker than I was expecting. People get shot. People die. Hell, there is even blood! This film is, in many ways, more violent than Spielberg's previous outing, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was. And while I'm in no way trying to suggest that violence alone makes a film good, in an adventure film such as this, the threat of violence is what raises the stakes and generates the excitement. It's thrilling when there is a legitimate threat that your lead character may be maimed (lets be honest, we all know Tintin won't actually die).
More Indy than Indy - Expanding on that last point, this film in many ways really does feel like Spielberg is atoning for Crystal Skull. Now it is an animated film based on a children's comic. It's no Temple of Doom. But it is exciting. It's action packed. And most importantly it's fun. The plot may not quite be up to Raiders standards either, but once the initial contrivance that sparks the adventure has passed there is a rollicking good time to be had.
Captain Haddock - In many ways this film is the story of captain Haddock. And that's a good thing as he is amazing. He provides both the comic relief and the pathos. He is the heart of the film and I'm convinced that one of the key reasons (if not the key reason) why he works is Andy Serkis. The man is a genius.
The most important thing about The Adventures of Tintin however is that it's fun. It is a gleeful ride of a film, both narritively and stylistically. And you don't need to be a Tintin fan to love that.