Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

A long thirst well quenched!

On 11/11/11 Tintin released here in India and I soon realised there was hardly any movie I had waited so eagerly to watch, ever. I first came across Tintin as a kid of very few years of age and—like so many others around the globe—found it impossible to leave the fandom. A few years later, I wished I could watch Tintin on the silver screen. This was in the last millenium. Today, that wish came true!

Now this is not a review or a critique, merely my thoughts on the Spielberg-Jackson venture which few, if any, expected to be bad. First things first: I shall try to go in order.

The characters have eyes!

Alright I had noticed this in the trailers. Something had seemed wrong. A while later when I took out one of my Tintin cartoons from my collection, I realised that Herge drew the characters with mere dots for eyes.

Tintin happens to be blue-eyed. While this does not spoil anything and while Jackson was right in deciding to go for stop-motion animation as opposed to a live action film, what disappointed me was that all the pivotal characters were not present.

To be precise, Prof Calculus is absent

That is right. Cuffbert Calculus is absent. What was Spielberg thinking? Perhaps, now that I look back at the film, I see Calculus would have hardly fit in; but Steven Moffat is one of those writer-geniuses who I’m sure could have worked out a plot to fit Calculus into it.

Snowy was entirely animated and some actors (Craig and Serkis) happen to play two characters and the entire thing comes out flawlessly. I could not think of a better substitute for Bell to play Tintin.

To me, Jamie Bell was an unheard of actor. I never knew him before The Eagle. I later recognised him in Jumper when I watched it a second time on television; then in the more recent Jane Eyre. In fact, I had no idea the boy was in King Kong (2005) either! Well, I will not say much now except that Man on a Ledge is a film I await.

Andy Serkis’ accent, Thomson and Thompson

Now Serkis’ accent (for Capn Haddock) was as new as actress Kim Stengel, who plays the Captain’s favourite, Bianca Castafiore. I have heard to (got accustomed to) Haddock’s voice in the animated films and the rolling of the R’s in the films seemed a tad difficult to put up with, but the smooth performance by a man whose face is, unfortunately, often hidden from the camera (Remember Gollum?) made it truly likeable.

That said, Moffat’s mixing up Herge’s three stories (The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure) was brilliant. It was nice that, while I could identify almost all bits and pieces from the three stories, I was waiting to see where he has deviated from one to add stuff from another.

British comedians Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make a remarkable detective duo. Although I did feel they had put on a little weight from the comics to films, they were quite the lovable characters Herge meant them to be.

The Original Comics

Perhaps it was right then, as Herge put it, that Spielberg alone could bring Tintin to the screen while doing justice to the original comic works. This was back in the 1980s when Speilberg was to have met the Belgian writer but could not as he passed away just that week. Herge’s widow gave Speilberg the rights and over two decades later the director seems to have put it to good use. At least I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What I wish to see are few: the opening train sequence from the animated films and the Tintin theme music from those shows seemed to have become the norm among all Tintin fans and I expected to see that in the film; but, like Ccalculus, perhaps we will have to wait for a second part. Or perhaps, unlike the Professor, these will never come?

Time will tell. In the meanwhile, perhaps I will go again the coming week! All in all, the characters got a whole new dimension of theirs (no pun intended) and it was a pleasure to watch. I only hope Peter Jackson will not delay too much in bringing out the sequel.

And I hope it releases first here. Again.