The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

As the lights go down in the movie theatre I feel my stomach do a turn. This is it, the moment I have been waiting for for the last four years, the moment when I will be plunged into an hour and forty minutes of unbridled joy...or complete and utter disappointment.

When it was announced back in 2007 that Steven Spielberg was planning on making a feature film adaptation of Hergé's The Adventures Of Tintin comics I was filled with excitement. An avid fan of the intrepid reporter ever since I was a child, I still wore many of my Tintin t-shirts and jumpers, poured over the comic books and watched my old VHS copies of the animated series, despite the odd jump and bit of white noise.

The casting of the hugely underrated Jamie Bell in the title role only led to more excitement, and with Edgar Wright involved in the writing of the screenplay the film was feeling like an instant favourite before any footage had even managed to be leaked onto the Internet.

Yes, all the pieces looked set to make this long anticipated film into something special. All except for one rather enormous part of it; it was to be made using motion-capture.
As an animator this technique is always something to be weary of. Sometimes, when joined together with strong animation such as in Avatar or most famously with Gollum in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, it can be truly beautiful and transporting. But more often than not it seems to be a marketing ploy to fill seats, suggesting that an animated likeness of a famous person is enough of a reason for us to pay to see a film that, more often than not, is nowhere near as visually appealing as the CG modelling on the movie posters would have us believe.

And so my stomach flipped. Even with the pretty posters and impressive trailers that I had eaten up in my anticipation, there was still the very strong possibility that The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn was going to be an undeniable dud.
But it wasn't. It really, really wasn't. After sitting through a hilariously long and painful silence as a seemingly never-ending list of company logos appeared on the screen, followed by a beautiful and reference filled title sequence, we got to see the film for what it really was; a beautifully put together piece of cinema overflowing with brilliantly realised characters, incredible environments with stunning lighting and distinctly grown-up feeling danger.

The script is strong, filled with just the right mix of character based comedy, rip-roaring adventure and a thrilling, if somewhat predictable mystery that leaves the film open enough for a slew of sequels to come flying out after it.
The characters are all wonderfully realised, which is no small feet considering the huge amount that made it into the film. Jamie Bell surpassed all of my (very high) expectations to deliver yet another inspired performance. His Tintin was everything a Tintin should be; intelligent, funny, brave, that little bit naïve, and oh so good at getting his story, as well as coming away from being hit repeatedly on the back of the head with remarkably little long-term damage.

Serkis too was a shining example of what an actor can do when he has no inhibitions. Set to be an instant favourite of the younger audience, he some how managed to give Captain Haddock that wonderfully human side that he needs in order for him to be the believable and empathetic character that adults can really root for too.

And the motion-capture is by far the best I have seen. Seeming to rely less on animation to spruce it up than other films have, it gives the impression that the actors really are bringing more of the characters to life than simply the voices. Particularly Bell, whose personality seems to pour through the computer graphics and onto the screen, even managing to make the repeated exclamations of 'great snakes!' feel genuine.

However, with all that brilliance going on, the highlight of the film for me, without doubt, has to be Snowy. Heroic, clever and utterly adorable, Snowy is just as much a part of the team as Haddock or Tintin, and he has just the right amount to do in the film, not pushed to the sidelines or given more to do than is necessary, he stands firmly as a leading character, and the cutest one by far.