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The Adventures of Tintin: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) movie poster The Adventures of Tintin

Theatrical Release: December 21, 2011 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Steven Spielberg / Writers: Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish (screenplay); Hergé (comic books)

Cast: Jamie Bell (Tintin), Andy Serkis (Captain Archibald Haddock, Sir Francis Haddock), Daniel Craig (Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, Red Rackham), Nick Frost (Thomson), Simon Pegg (Thompson), Daniel Mays (Allan, Pirate Flunky #1), Gad Elmaleh (Omar Ben Salaad), Toby Jones (Aristides Silk), Joe Starr (Barnaby), Enn Reitel (Nestor, Mr. Crabtree), Mackenzie Crook (Tom, Pirate Flunky #2), Tony Curran (Lieutenant Delacourt), Sonje Fortag (Mrs. Finch), Cary Elwes (Pilot), Phillip Rhys (Co-Pilot, French Medic), Ron Bottitta (Sailor, Lookout), Mark Ivanir (Afghar Outpost Soldier, Secretary), Nathan Meister (Market Artist), Sebastian Roche (Pedro, 1st Mate), Kim Stengel (Bianca Castafiore)

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One of the most celebrated characters in the history of comic books finally made it to the big screen last year
from two of the world's most innovative and commercially successful filmmakers. With a $135 million budget, an opening just days before Christmas, and cinema's most cutting-edge technology, the word "tentpole" wouldn't even seem to do justice to such a production. And yet, The Adventures of Tintin was far from the global event its makers hoped it would be. Less than three months after its North American debut, the film is now on home video, with few accolades, little fanfare, and a domestic gross well under $100 M to its name.

The financial disappointments can't even be considered very surprising. The name Tintin and that of his Belgian creator Hergé do not mean much in the United States. Here, superheroes do well in comic books and more comedic personalities lend themselves to long-running newspaper comic strips. There isn't much room for something in between, which the globe-trotting adventures of a teenaged reporter and his dog would certainly qualify as. But the film adaptation had some big believers in it. Biggest of all was Steven Spielberg, who discovered the comic series when European critics likened Raiders of the Lost Ark to it. He spoke with Hergé shortly before the author's 1983 death and obtained film rights not long after that.

Envisioned as a live-action film, the project sat in development while Spielberg remained anything but idle. Though the rights expired, Spielberg had not given up on it. In 2001, he voiced a desire to make the movie in computer animation. DreamWorks reobtained the series' rights and by early 2004, there was talk of an entire trilogy of films, in live-action with some CG embellishments. Spielberg contacted Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to see if his New Zealand effects house Weta Digital could cook up a tasteful CGI version of Tintin's dog Snowy. Jackson provided the test animation requested but encouraged a motion capture animated film instead of a live-action one.

Spielberg agreed. He, his frequent, longtime collaborator Kathleen Kennedy, and Jackson would produce, with Spielberg also directing. Penned by "Doctor Who"'s Steven Moffat and reworked by British comedy icon Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), the screenplay would be taken primarily from two of Tintin's 1940s adventures.

Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin (Jamie Bell), and Snowy see rescue potential in the biplane flying above their capsized boat.

Young, determined, independent journalist Tintin (Jamie Bell) purchases an inexpensive model of a 17th century ship the Unicorn at a marketplace. Before he can take off with his new find, he receives generous offers from two other shoppers. Tintin can't understand the interest, but he makes clear it's not for sale. That doesn't prevent his apartment from being broken into, ransacked, and robbed of the ship. As gunfire breaks out and a man is shot dead at his doorway, it is clear that the model is part of something much bigger.

Tintin learns as much when he breaks into the mansion of one interested party, Sakharine (Daniel Craig), and discovers an identical Unicorn model. Tintin is kidnapped and brought aboard the SS Karaboudjan. There, he meets the ship's bearded, alcoholic Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a descendant of the Unicorn's commander. A Haddock is said to be integral to solving the old mystery of the Unicorn's buried treasure. Haddock and Tintin make a narrow escape from Sakharine's associates and wind up crash-landing in the Moroccan desert.

The harrowing experience seems to recover some long-forgotten secrets about the treasure inside Captain Haddock, pertaining to his ancestor and the pirate Red Rackham who attacked his ship. The third and final Unicorn model, encased in bulletproof glass in the possession of an Arab merchant, becomes sought by all interested and may just contain the final clue to locating the long-lost riches.

A newly sober Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) reaches deep into his subconscious to recover details of his ancestor's buried treasure. Bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson are of little assistance to anyone.

Though Tintin is full of plot, details, characters, and parallel narratives, the movie is primarily one big action-packed chase around the globe. When it comes to cinematic adventure, no one compares to Spielberg. Even so, his films excel because they do a terrific job of establishing story, stakes, and personalities. While these elements have been crucial to Hergé's series remaining in production from 1929 to 1976 and remaining appreciated in many parts of the world ever since, they just don't hold you captive being introduced to them here.

I entered this film with my knowledge of Tintin being limited to the first season of the early '90s animated TV series, whose appeal was completely lost on me. The adaptation by Spielberg and company is a bit easier to warm to. Last year was the fortieth anniversary of Spielberg's feature directorial debut. Even his weaker outings are more entertaining and fun than the best efforts of many a director.
He knows his way around staging spectacle and excitement in a way that audiences can enjoy. Here, though, there is an emphasis on fast pacing and state-of-the-art visuals that obviously can't be directly attributed to Hergé's highly stylized panels. It seems to both soup up the source text and distract from its foolhardy sensibilities.

As with the TV series, I struggle to recognize an obvious audience for this film. The comics are always cited as the stuff of children's dreams, and bumbling, mustachioed detectives Thomson and Thompson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) seem suited to winning over the young. But there is a lot of violence, bloodshed, and alcohol, making the PG rating more like the ones attached to the first Indiana Jones movies (which narrowly pre-dated the PG-13) and less like the ones slapped on virtually every new animated film these days. Pre-existing fondness for these characters and adventures seems like the most feasible way to enjoy this high-tech new incarnation, but even this audience may be disheartened with liberties taken.

Haddock and Tintin make their getaway downhill in motorcycle with sidecar as Hotel Bagghar falls after them.

The technology ranks highly among the film's assets. Motion capture has been employed for quite some time now, but aside from Avatar, which seemed to elevate it to a new art form, reactions have been mixed to features relying extensively on it. The animated works of Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers Digital drew "uncanny valley" complaints and also occasionally blew a lot of money. I don't know that Tintin combats these issues; its costly techniques seem largely responsible for the film not receiving a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars (despite a full campaign for that honor, the equivalent Golden Globe win, and most predicting it had the best chance of defeating Rango). You can credit the makers with less imagination and achievement than what Pixar animators give us. But it's impossible to deny that Tintin delivers delicious visual fireworks all its own.

There are times watching the movie where it's easy to forget that this is not a live-action film. That is not because movements were recorded with computers and tracking dots, but because the animators have utilized the data and the ridiculously body-suited actors as the foundation for dazzling heightened reality. As on the striking Rango (which shared a questionable Nickelodeon Movies banner), the detail, lighting, and shading amaze here. Tintin goes much further with breathtaking fast-paced action sequences and huge, bustling locations.

Ultimately, though, for all the "wow" factor, Tintin fails to connect strongly on a dramatic level. It looks great and no one can question the work, technology, and faithful spirit that Spielberg and company poured into this project. But whether it is because the source material is too European, too old-fashioned, or simply too unremarkable, Tintin is much too easy to not invest in, relate to, or get swept up by.

As expected, Tintin fared a lot better in international markets, grossing nearly 80% of its $375 million worldwide total outside of North America. Evidently, that was good enough to clear the way for the planned sequels. Jackson is slated to direct the second movie after he finishes work on his second Hobbit movie and Spielberg has expressed interest at returning to direct a third movie himself.

Wrapping up Paramount's powerhouse year for animation (as the studio prepares for when DreamWorks Animation turns elsewhere for distribution), Tintin was released to DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D yesterday. The latter two are available exclusively as combo packs, with DVD and digital copy. We look at the two-disc 2D-only version here.

The Adventures of Tintin: 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Blu-ray & DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Blu-ray Film only: English for Hearing Impaired
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in DVD ($29.99 SRP), 3-Disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy ($54.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video


Between the nature of computer animation and all that went into this film, The Adventures of Tintin expectedly is nothing short of a visual feast on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 transfer is as flawless as 1080p can be and the ambitious and atmospheric shots and sequences delight with all the clarity, sharpness, and detail that hi-def direct digital transfers allow. The default 7.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is equally marvelous. Par for an action film, this one is chockfull of dynamic and directional moments, making greater use of the soundfield than almost any other film I've encountered. Much power derives from the crisp, active soundtrack, which only suffers mildly from volume peaks and valleys.

Director Steven Spielberg refers Jamie Bell (Tintin) to the character art on the walls in "The Who's Who of Tintin." Motion capture animation requires a lot of work to look pretty, as this crude previsualization demonstrates.


Not even the thirty-year journey to put Tintin on film can get Steven Spielberg to budge from his anti-audio commentary stance, but that doesn't keep this Blu-ray from having plenty of video bonus features, which collectively nearly match the film itself in runtime.

The eleven extras are all featurettes and can be viewed individually or with a "Play All",
by which they run 1 hour, 36 minutes, and 20 seconds long.

Supporting the one singular documentary feel, the piece opens and closes with "Toasting Tintin" segments (1:18, 3:12) from the first and last days of production. In the first, January 2009, Spielberg reads an encouraging note from Hergé's widow. In the last, September 2011, Spielberg acknowledges his collaborators via international video conferencing.

The remaining featurettes proceed in a logical order. "The Journey to Tintin" (8:49) lets Spielberg and Peter Jackson discuss their discovery and appreciation of Hergé's comics and how animation tests paved their way to this collaboration. "The World of Tintin" (10:39) touches on the comic series at large and focuses on the books adapted for this film. "The Who's Who of Tintin" (14:13) considers the characters, their casting, and slight variations from the established order. "Tintin: Conceptual Design" (8:32) addresses the process of faithfully transforming the stylized flat designs of the comics into the full three-dimensional CGI, with things like Belgian research and pre-visualizations.

Tintin's dog is molded in clay in "Snowy: From Beginning to End." Go-to Spielberg composer John Williams discusses scoring "Tintin", a job that earned him yet another Academy Award nomination.

"Tintin in the Volume" (17:48) tackles production, taking us inside the motion capture process from helmet cameras to real-time previews to choreography. "Snowy: From Beginning to End" (10:06) lets us in on the challenges of animating Tintin's dog in original CGI without capture performance as a basis. "Animating Tintin" (10:55) dissects what might be considered the post-production phase of a mo cap film, as wireframe props are transformed, locations are invented, and details distance from the real actors photographed.
"Tintin: The Score" (6:54) lets Spielberg fave John Williams talk about his characteristically grandiose score, the source of the film's only Academy Award nomination. His work on the opening credits and certain character themes is given special notice. Finally, "Collecting Tintin" (3:52) gives brief thought to the poses and designs of collectible figures created for the film.

Though equipped with BD-Live, all that offers now is a reel of jerky streaming trailers (which did not play automatically at disc insertion), for Titanic 3D and such. Tintin's own trailers are regrettably absent.

Whereas the DVD sold on its own lamely includes just two of the Blu-ray's eleven featurettes ("The Journey to Tintin" and the inessential "Snowy: From Beginning to End" at that), the DVD in this combo pack includes virtually nothing. Its Previews listing consists of an anti-tobacco spot and trailers for Titanic 3D, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Hugo, Puss in Boots, and Indiana Jones: The Complete Blu-ray Collection. Since the digital copy is not included on that disc, but made available as both a download and an UltraViolet stream, it's not clear why the standard DVD isn't just included here.

In a Tintiny room, lead conceptual designer Chris Guise tackles the issue on everyone's mind: the collectible character figures created for the film. The DVD's main menu, like the Blu-ray's but without the extras, conveys the film's motif of globe-trotting adventures.

Clips play in photo frames which float over a map and under a moving biplane on each disc's main menu. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks on the film and resumes as long as you don't hit "stop" or "power."

The standard slim Blu-ray case is topped by an embossed, glossy cardboard slipcover, which on my review copy was coming apart like no other I've seen. (Clearly, Paramount couldn't even wait for the glue to dry to get this movie on store shelves.) An insert supplies directions and your unique code for download the digital copy or streaming the film via UltraViolet.

Haddock begins hallucinating as he, Tintin, and Snowy are stranded in the Moroccan desert.


The Adventures of Tintin and Steven Spielberg feel right for each other, but thinking much more highly of one than the other, I have to place the blame on the source comics for this not being a more enjoyable adventure. Tintin is flashy, spirited, and visually quite breathtaking, but it's also hollow, dizzying, and not terribly fun.
It's kind of like a visual effects demo reel: technically impressive without any emotional investment or coherency from one set piece to another.

Boasting dynamite picture and sound, the Blu-ray's feature presentation is everything you want it to be. The 90 minutes of making-of featurettes are thorough and complementary. The only thing that falls short for me is the mediocre movie itself and those who have been charmed by Hergé's comics might very well disagree.

You shouldn't need any encouragement to check out spectacle cinema of this size, especially from masters like Spielberg and Peter Jackson. And yet, the modest domestic box office numbers demonstrate clear and understandable resistance. You still ought to see it... just don't expect to be wowed by the storytelling.

Buy The Adventures of Tintin from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Blu-ray: HugoTo Catch a ThiefYoung AdultThe Last Temptation of ChristMy Week with Marilyn
The Animated Series: The Adventures of Tintin: Season 1
Directed by Steven Spielberg: Raiders of the Lost ArkTemple of DoomLast CrusadeKingdom of the Crystal Skull
Produced by Steven Spielberg: The Goonies (25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition) • Poltergeist (25th Anniversary Edition)
Written by Edgar Wright: Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldHot Fuzz
Motion Capture: Rise of the Planet of the ApesBeowulfA Christmas CarolMars Needs Moms
Golden Globe Best Animated Feature Winners: Toy Story 3UpWALL•ERatatouilleCars
2011 Animated Films: RangoPuss in BootsKung Fu Panda 2Cars 2RioWinnie the Pooh

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Reviewed March 14, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies, Hemisphere Media Capital, Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films,
and 2012 Paramount Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.