I consider Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin to be a legitimate part of travel literature and, as literature is a form of art -- and reality makes indifferent art -- perhaps more justifiably so than flatly-told accounts of some trip actually taken. The best and earliest of the stories are set in the 1930s, the Golden Age of Travel when the world seemed still to be full of adventure and adventurers. When Europeans went abroad armed and it was acceptable to shoot your way out of problems with mischievous locals, who were less well armed. Before the Second War put an end to all that, and afterward nothing could quite go back to being what it had been before.
So I was of course looking forward to Spielberg’s “Adventures of Tintin”, though with some trepidation, as Hollywood lately has had trouble getting anything right and I myself have not been in a theater in the last five years, not since Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” in 2006. Since movie tickets now cost as much as opera tickets used to cost, this self-denial is not as difficult as it might be.
But it turned out to be a good movie. Not a “wow” movie like the first Indiana Jones, but a workmanlike job with no sharp edges to grieve someone who cares about the spunky lad and his adventures.
It is made with motion-capture technology, which a number of reviewers have commented manages not to be creepy. It isn’t an animated version of the pure lines of Hergé’s comic book art, which has been done before and can be found on You Tube, and which is the style I would have preferred, but it’s the way Spielberg made it and it’s pretty good job of it.
The ‘30s aesthetic is beautiful, the machines all look convincingly mechanical, the episodes of manic action completely appropriate. The whole thing is delightful. Intelligent enough for an adult and understandable enough to keep the kids engaged. My eight-year-old grandson went home afterward and re-read the Tintin books I had given him for Christmas.
The part I liked best was the character of Tintin himself. He was the pure 1930s model. A young man of some unspecified age who, in place of any special powers, was bright, intelligent, adventurous, positive, well-mannered, sensible. The sort of young man every parent hopes their child will grow up to be. None of that dark, whiny slacking that is as irritating to an adult as the child intends it to be. Too sensible to be politically correct, when a suspicious knock comes at the door he casually slips a pistol out of his desk drawer as he goes to answer it. That alone won my heart.
And, consistent with the canon , there are no girls in the story. This was a good Tintin.