Review – The Adventures of Tintin

I managed to get free tickets to a preview screening of the film – read my slightly average review below:

Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, everyone knew that a Tintin movie (the rights of which the director has held since 1983) was going to be a big deal. The series of comics by revered Belgian writer Hergé, the first written in 1929, have been a global success, showered with praise and translated into more than 80 languages worldwide, while the most dedicated fans often brand themselves “Tintinologists”. It will therefore come as a huge relief for many that Spielberg’s motion-captured homage to the plucky red-haired hero is funny, cinematically impressive and intensely difficult not to like.

Jackson had previously convinced Spielberg that filming Tintin in live action would not do the comics justice. When watching the film, one has to agree. The motion-capture technology brings Tintin to life. It’s admirable how seriously Hergé’s animated world is taken, from the detail of the characters to the cartoonish action sequences. One stunning scene takes place in a Moroccan town where Tintin chases down three small pieces of paper vital to his investigation – he loses Haddock in a sidecar (who had just blown a water dam to bits with a bazooka) and ends up zip-lining down a telephone wire on the remaining wheel of a motorbike. That’s a tiny fraction of what happens, but the impressive thing is that a large amount of this scene takes place in a single shot. It’s animated with visual flair, colour and virtuosity and is a return for Spielberg to the films he made in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s by far his most entertaining film since Jurassic Park.

The characters are done very well. Haddock, played by Andy Serkis is alcoholic and delusional; Tintin (Jamie Bell), every strand of his trademark quiff blowing in the wind, is as adventurous as the books make him out to be; and Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), hilariously incompetent, provide great comic relief. There have been obvious problems in terms of “dead eyes” in motion capture (exemplified by the rather creepy Polar Express and Beowulf) but Tintin doesn’t suffer from this. In fact, when adapting

Tintin and Snowy

from a series of pictures in which character eyes are black dots, the filmmakers do surprisingly well in making Tintin, Haddock and others look more human. Character movements are smooth and appear natural; occasionally I thought I was watching live action.

The Adventures of Tintin is pure fun. In fact, it’s a visual treat that despite minor flaws (a drawn-out ending, flat 3D) is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, encompassing a glorious world, constantly funny jokes and impressive action set-pieces. Go and watch it. You won’t regret it.

4 stars out of 5

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Jurassic Park re-release – 2011

The first time I watched Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park must have been on a VHS cassette when I was a small child. I was captivated by its stunning visual effects and instantly elected the Tyrannosaurus Rex as my favourite dinosaur in the film. Consequently, it’s rather easy to imagine my frenzied delight when I heard that (coinciding with the blu-ray release) Jurassic Park would be re-released in cinemas across the UK.

The classic poster for 1993’s Jurassic Park

This was not just an opportunity. This was an unmissable necessity, an undoubted must to see this film on the big screen in all its glory. Why is that, you ask? Well, there are several reasons of which I shall mention only a few:

1. John William’s majestic score in surround sound, enveloping you in your cinema seat.

2. The Tyrannosaurus Rex. Not only does its roar scream at you in its ultimate loudness, but on the big screen it looms over you in its proper height (well, it did at the cinema I went to).

3. In 1993 it became the highest-grossing Spielberg-directed film of all time (excluding inflation) and made more money than any other in that year.

4. It’s a landmark in the use of computer-generated imagery. The film still looks brilliant after eighteen years and stands as a better piece of storytelling than Avatar.

5. Samuel L. Jackson is so damn cool as the Head Technician of Jurassic Park that even in a minor role he needs a whole screen to stomach his awesomeness.

So I ventured down on the afternoon of Saturday the 24th September to the BFI IMAX where I watched the film for the first time in a number of years. It was astonishing. I had forgotten how undeniably impressive the computer-generated T-Rex was (as reflected humorously in the mirror of the jeep in which Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Bob Peck make their escape) as well as the savagely intelligent velociraptors. The first dinosaur attack around the T-Rex paddock still kept me on the edge of my seat (it’s one of my favourite scenes) and I was able for once to notice a lot more subtleties as well as grasp more of the plot  – don’t you always find that happens with films from your childhood?

Wayne Knight, an incredibly underrated actor, brought a necessary wave of human antagonism beyond the various escaped dinosaurs as Dennis Nedry, the vile and greedy technician who you can somehow feel sympathy for. Richard Attenborough, in his first acting role for fifteen years, is very convincing as the kindly scientist who only too late understands the reality of his elaborate theme park. He exists as a sharp deviation from the character written in the Michael Crichton novel, who is described as “arrogant, deceptive, disrespectful and rude”. It’s particularly emotional in the film when we see Hammond sitting on his own in the restaurant, slowly eating spoonfuls of ice cream to which he has “spared no expense”, gradually coming to realisation of what he has done with his Jurassic Park.

The film just works so well and is so incredibly entertaining that it’s vastly difficult not to ramble on about it. The CGI and animatronic dinosaurs co-ordinated by Stan Winston are an incredible sight to behold and the characters truly have depth. Yes, it has its flaws, many of them technical (where does that steep drop in the T-Rex paddock come from?) but it’s a supreme slice of Spielbergian entertainment that was perhaps the defining piece of effects cinema of the early 1990s.

I stayed until the end credits with my friends after jokingly hearing a member of the audience shouting “Let’s wait for the dino outtakes!” All in all, it was an experience to remember: a rediscovery of one of my favourite childhood films in a high definition print on the biggest screen in England. Maybe I’ll end up seeing it again, just perhaps not at the BFI IMAX. £11.50 is a hell of a lot of money for a cinema ticket.

£11.50??