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'The Adventures of Tintin' Review: Motion-Capture Cinema Comes of Age Under Spielberg's Guidance


It has to be said that Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” represents a new peak in motion-capture artistry. Unlike the 2004 “Polar Express,” in which we could never shake our awareness of a spectral Tom Hanks imprisoned beneath that glazed digital carapace, the 3D Tintin meticulously blends the smooth surfaces of Pixar-style cartoonery with the complex actions of live performers.

Much credit here must surely go to producer-collaborator Peter Jackson, whose digitally fabricated Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” movies is the template of excellence in this area. Spielberg and Jackson are both big fans of the Tintin books, and their affectionate enthusiasm is apparent in this very lively distillation. Unfortunately, that liveliness is a problem–it never lets up. And since the movie is a bit too long, and its globe-hopping excitements thus become somewhat repetitive, the picture eventually wears us out.

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The story is a classic boys’ adventure drawn from the long-running (1929-1983) comics series by the Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé. Tintin (played here by Jamie Bell) is an avid young newspaper reporter with a quiff of reddish hair perched alertly above his brow and a dog-slash-assistant named Snowy pitching in on his master’s professional investigations. We meet these two in Paris, at an outdoor market where Tintin casually purchases a model ship — a three-masted man o’ war. When two other parties display an intense interest in buying this item off its new owner, Tintin realizes that something is up. A little research reveals that the model is of an old pirate craft called the Unicorn, which was said to have carried a secret cargo, and that “only a true Haddock” can discover what it was.

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