Two of the most anticipated movies of the holiday season open in theaters today. But if you’re thinking of choosing “The Adventures of Tintin,” don’t. I have a new Doc Option for you instead.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I do not like Steven Spielberg’s new animated film. Some of it has to do with the fact I never grow to care about the titular redhead journalist, who always looks like a child to me, while mostly I still just can’t get into a motion-capture cartoon where everything is trying to look so real without actually looking real whatsover. Why not make a live action film or just an animated film? I’ll never understand the reasons, and I’ll never enjoy watching unblinking ghost-eyed people on the big screen. Cute dogs who will do anything, including sabotage a mission, to get a sandwich, yes. But not people.
Actually, in addition to the delightful little Snowy, I do like many of the supporting characters, such as Captain Haddock and the two Thompsons. Give me a cut of the film without Tintin or the uninteresting vilain, Ivan Sakharine, and I’ll watch it again. It might not make much sense, but I don’t think the full story is that great either. And the much-praised “single-shot” chase sequence at the end would only be truly amazing if it was actually filmed in one take and not drawn as such.
My dislike for Spielberg’s adaptation has no bearing on my interest in the Tintin character overall. While I haven’t read much of the original graphic novels, I am a big fan of what introduced me to the material: Anders Ostergaard’s 2003 criminally under-seen documentary, “Tintin and I.” The film is a biographical portrait of Tintin’s creator, Georges Remi (aka Herge), and it goes into a lot of the history of the comics themselves using minimal animation and voice actors to bring some of them to life. Even Herge himself is animated to a degree in order to make archive videos of him now seem to be speaking other words.
The whole film is based around audio interviews with the writer/artist from 1971. It’s a very clever documentary and somewhat anticipates later, more celebrated films that play with the mode when utilizing audio archives, such as “Waltz With Bashir,” “Chicago 10” and “The Arbor.” Actors play real people, though in voiceover only, and there is definitely a lot of other staged material, which could possibly permit the classification of hybrid. If you want soul-less fluff, you can see Spielberg’s adaptation, but if you want a deep and respectful exploration of the hugely popular Tintin books, watch Ostergaard’s film.
As far as I can tell, “Tintin and I” is not available on DVD in the U.S., but PBS aired the film five years ago on POV and someone has uploaded their copy to YouTube. Check out at least the first fifteen minutes this way below:
“Tintin and I” is sold together in other countries with Henri Roanne and Gerard Valet’s earlier documentary “I, Tintin,” another hybrid that mixes nonfiction material of Herge and historical influences with animated bits of the “Tintin” books. I haven’t seen it in full, but it is available in parts via DailyMotion. It is subtitled in very literal English. I’d prefer to see it more properly translated, but if you’re curous here’s the first part:
As for “The Adventures of Tintin,” I shouldn’t really discourage you from seeing it. Many people love it. I might also need to see it again when I’m in a different kind of mood, perhaps. Or after I’ve read others’ thoughts on it. If you see it, let me know what you think.