The production team behind this movie is a film buff’s wet dream: written by Dr Who supremo Steven Moffat and Attack the Block/Scott Pilgrim geek wunderkinds Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright; produced by LOTR/Hobbit genius Peter Jackson, and directed by the action movie maestro of the century, Steven Spielberg.
How could it be shit? Even factoring in the slightest ambivalence to mo-cap, why would anyone expect such a team to create a multi-million dollar bucket of dreck? Yes, Steven lost plenty of good will over Crystal Skull, working under George’s thumb to churn out a flat genre flick that could have been directed by any one of a dozen action hacks, Paul W.S. Anderson included. What right had we to expect such a leap backward from the man in the cap - and I mean backward in a good way. Somersaulting over thirty years, back to Indy in his pomp.
For The Adventures of Tin Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn, with its hyperkinetic set pieces – the desert plane crash, the fiery pirate attack, the pursuit from the palace - reveals the schoolboy’s quiff to be the true heir to the schoolteacher’s fedora. It’s just what you would expect if a 3D wizard gave the director of Raiders an impossible paint set and told him he could create anything, put his camera anywhere, throw actors who’d never age into scenarios you’d never throw a stuntman. The breadth of the palette and the dynamic nature of its application is nothing short of dazzling.
A few reviewers have dismissed Tin Tin as a technical exercise – peerless, perhaps, but lifeless. Yes, the mo-cap does miss the human element – all those brilliant ‘giddy schoolboy’ moments with which Harrison Ford embellished the action, making us care for Indy with his boyish grin of discovery and adolescent outrage at impending death (“We. Are going. To die! ”) Tin Tin is comparatively dead, no matter how technically amazing the mo-cap may be (and Andy Serkis’ magnificent Capt. Haddock is probably as good as it gets) but those critics bemoaning the shallow characterisation & soulless eyes of our heroes should reconsider the source material.
Hergé’s Adventures of Tin Tin are a rollercoaster, first & foremost, and the movie stays absolutely true to that spirit. Behind all Spielberg’s bravura flourishes you can feel the breakneck pace of Hergé, urging his hero from one improbable adventure to the next. I spent the whole summer reading my kids – three and six – every Tin Tin book I could find in preparation for this movie. I so wanted their first encounter with Spielberg to be as defining as Raiders was for me, and he didn’t disappoint them. They were as thrilled by the action as I was, and as amused by Thomson & Thompson’s pratfalls and Haddock’s whisky obsession as they had been sitting on our sofa, reading along with me frame by frame.
That was the acid test, for me, and Spielberg’s team flew it. We can’t wait for the next one.