Mondays are usually fairly slow news days, but Empire have landed a doozy of an exclusive to start the week off: our first glimpse of one of the most anticipated blockbusters of next year, and the first collaboration between the two biggest directors in the world that aren’t called James Cameron. The cover of the latest issue of the always must-read movie magazine, which is out later in the week, has a first look at “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn,” the motion-capture adaptation of the popular comic book series by Belgian creator Herge, as directed by Steven Spielberg in his first venture into animation, and produced by Peter Jackson.
There are three images on Empire’s site now, the first being the cover that’s been steadily revealed on the site over the last few days — an adaptation of an iconic image from the comics, featuring the titular baby-faced journalist (played by Jamie Bell) and his dog, Snowy. There’s also a first look at Tintin’s faithful companion Captain Haddock (played by Andy Serkis, the Laurence Olivier of mo-cap) and an image of the three heroes adrift at sea, trying to flag down a plane.
The plot of the film, which is adapted both from its namesake and its sequel, “Red Rackham’s Treasure,” follows the duo as they find themselves embroiled in a search for treasure stolen by the fearsome pirate Red Rackham. Aside from Bell and Serkis, the impressive cast also includes Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as incompetent policemen Thompson and Thompson, Daniel Craig as Red Rackham, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Tony Curran, Daniel Mays, Sebastian Roche and Gad Elmaleh.
We’re not quite sure what to make of the images — we weren’t actually expecting them to be quite as photo-realistic as they are, and we’ve had some issues with Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture films to date, none of which ever quite managed to escape the ‘uncanny valley.’ But having said that, there is an element of stylization to the character design — one of the things that helped make “Monster House” the most effective of the Imageworks films so far. We’ll reserve judgement until we see the images in motion — with the film set to make its debut in Europe this time next year (with a US release following at Christmas, although with “War Horse” opening only a few days earlier, we imagine Tintin could well be moved up), we may see a trailer hit theaters before the end of the year.
We are looking forward to this one — hopefully, the new method of working, and the close collaboration with Jackson, will mean Spielberg will bounce back from the worst film of his career, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and the writing talent they assembled is world-class: the script was originally by the great Steven Moffat (“Doctor Who,” “Sherlock“), with Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish doing a few rewrites.
There are few quotes on Empire’s site that are also promising, including Spielberg hinting that the film may be influenced by German expressionism: “The first part of the film, which is the most mysterious part, certainly owes much to not only film noir but the whole German Brechtian theatre — some of our night scenes and our action scenes are very contrasty. But at the same time the movie is a hell of an adventure.”
Jackson also comments on which of the books may prove to be the source material for the sequel, should the franchise get that far (by no means a certainty — Tintin, while huge in Europe, is virtually unknown in the States, one of the reasons for the staggered release date). “One of my favourites is “The Seven Crystal Balls,” so that’s the one I’ve always been thinking of. I also really like the Eastern European ones, the Balkan ones like “King Ottoman’s Sceptre” and “The Calculus Affair.” I think it’s a terrific setting for a thriller, the weird Balkan politics and the mysterious secret service agents. I think the Moon ones are terrific, but they’d be good for the third or fourth Tintin film, if we get that far. We want to keep his feet on the ground just a little bit longer.”
With Empire hitting shelves on Thursday, we’re sure more information and pictures will emerge later in the week, and you’ll be able to pick up the issue from then. Otherwise, “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn” begins its worldwide rollout on October 26th, 2011, with the US release following on December 28th.