The 2007 announcement that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were to collaborate on an animated film called “The Adventures of Tintin” seemed to be met with little more than a “Huh?” among most Americans. Indeed, the comic book series by Belgian artist Hergé has attained only a cult following in the United States, despite its enormous popularity overseas. I, therefore, had no idea what to expect going into Spielberg’s latest film. What I got was an exciting, good-natured, family-friendly adventure that can be thoroughly described in one word: fun.
As the title suggests, “The Adventures of Tintin” follows the story of Tintin (Jamie Bell), a boy reporter who finds himself wrapped up in a mystery regarding the legend of three brothers, each a ship captain, who left behind clues revealing the location of treasure.
Tintin is joined by his dog Snowy and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkkis of “Lord of the Rings” and “King Kong”), a descendant of the aforementioned legendary captains. Together, the three allies travel the world and attempt to thwart the efforts of antagonist Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig).
The film was shot entirely with motion-capture technology, a technique Jackson mastered with his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the 2005 “King Kong” remake. Put simply, the motion-capture process has actors perform scenes while cameras detect their movements, including facial expressions, which are then applied to animated characters.
The animation here is stunning””the world of “The Adventures of Tintin” hits a perfect balance between realism and Pixar-style animation. Spielberg and Jackson have managed to avoid the Uncanny Valley trap that plagued the dead-eyed characters of “The Polar Express.”
Perhaps more importantly, the performances behind the animation are wonderful. Bell, in particular, carries the film with his playful charm and boyish nature.
From beginning to end, “The Adventures of Tintin” is relentless in its commitment to fast-paced fun. It’s effortlessly funny and manages to be family-friendly without ever feeling pristine. Like “Indiana Jones” (not the awful one with Shia LaBeouf) with better visuals, Spielberg’s latest film will likely be enjoyed by many for years to come.