‘t i’n’t in’t’ Tintin

Having just returned from watching the new CGI, motion capture, animated movie “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn”, I must say I had a rather fun, if slightly unfulfilling, time. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s certainly a film worth seeing, however it left me feeling a little like the characters on screen, pretty good on the surface but hollow on the inside.

French Live-Action Tintin
At a glance you'd think these were real people, but they're actually French.

As a child I was a fan of the Tintin cartoons and I enjoyed the occasional Hergé comic too, it was the adventure of it all that I loved. Ever since I’d heard of it’s inception I’d been looking forward to this movie. The knowledge that Spielberg and Jackson were on board only served to heighten my anticipation that this could be a classic. The trailers helped too but also made me a little fearful as, it must be said, the characters do look a bit odd. They’re right on the line between real and stylised, sinking to the deepest depths of the Uncanny Valley and freaking the willies out of you at a glance. As a disclaimer I’ll just say; This does fade during the action but every now and then your brain realises and does a little “Urgh!!” in your head to remind you.

I’d also like to state, for the record, that we were forced to watch the movie in 3D*. None of our party wanted to see the movie in any more than the usual two dimensions but the final 2D showing anywhere in driving distance was at 18:30 and that’s just a touch too early for us working folks.

So, with mixed feelings but high hopes (and 3D premium paid), I made my way in and settled down, wearing two pairs of glasses on my face.

The movie starts quickly, with a nice in joke and some incidental crime. We’re then immediately introduced to the plot’s MacGuffin, the titular “Unicorn”, and, seconds later and unmistakably, the villain of the piece. This is a good start and the breathless pace continues throughout the whole movie. Clues are presented, people appear, that piece of the puzzle is put together, action happens and it’s all done extremely slickly, with great style and flare. Some of the “one shot**” action sequences are especially well accomplished, flowing from one set-piece to the next with only the briefest of time to digest what you’ve seen before the next section of  beautifully rendered CGI slaps you around the chops and shouts “Boo!!”. It really is an irreverent adventure movie from start to finish, punctuated with some good jokes and a standout performance from Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock. (When will they give that man an Oscar??)

My only real criticism would be that everything just seems to happen. I realise this is Tintin and, to a point, the only remarkable thing about him is that things just seem to happen to him all the time but we really could have done with a little more explanation or thought on the part of our protagonist before things dawn on him. Simply pointing skyward and connecting A to E without the intermediary steps of B,C and D comes off as far too convenient. Unfortunately this extraordinary instinctive ability to put clues together in an instant and then give the most cursory of explanations persists throughout the film. This does wane as the story progresses, but that’s more because action is thundering along with no need for connecting the dots than any conscious attempt to fill in the blanks.

Another point I’d like to raise before rounding off is that some things did literally just happen. Two examples that immediately spring to mind; The first being when Tintin, for no appreciable reason, goes to a “deserted mansion” that just happens to be the Haddock family home and where the main villain, unbeknown to our hero, is in residence. The second is when a tank chases Tintin, Haddock et al though a Middle Eastern city. It just happens to appear right behind them half way down the hill and, bizarrely, encase in a hotel’s entrance hall. Both of these glaring examples lead me to believe that an extended cut (similar to those of the Lord of The Rings movies) may be on the cards for the DVD/BluRay release. Jackson at least has a history of such things and it might help resolve my earlier criticism too…

In conclusion then, this movie is bags of fun and visually spectacular. Just let the pace of the film to you, don’t think about things too much and you’ll love it. Score = 7/12.

*Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 3D added nothing but a few pounds to the cost of our evening’s entertainment.
**These are presented as “one shot” but, due to the nature of the movie, are simply effects shots without cuts, so don’t really count. They look very nice though…

 

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Operation: “Driving Maximum Europe” Info-Bomb

As no-doubt everyone reading this blog will know, my summer holiday this year has been dedicated to utilising the lax passport controls we’ve paid so much for over the past few decades. To that end me and my long suffering partner in… well… many things, have driven from the most lovely town that we live in (Bolsover) to the eastern edges of both the Adriatic Sea and Europe itself, then started back again. After travelling some 2394 miles, I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve discovered thus far about the closest continent to our British Isles.

Driving is what you make of it
To comply with the law in different countries along our route we assembled a plethora of items that will probably never be used. We have a full spare bulb set (inclusive of every single bulb on the car), a full first aid kit, two high-visibility jackets, a fire extinguisher and two emergency road triangles. However, as soon as you get off that ferry every rule of the road itself goes out the window, it’s you verses them, survival of the fittest. No-one drives to the speed limit (even when it’s 85Mph), 50% of people never indicate as a matter of principle and zebra crossings mean absolutely nothing (woe-betide anyone who thinks otherwise, on foot or in a car, you will be struck and noisily ridiculed for your foolishness).

The customer is a nuisance
In central and northern Europe all is good, service is quick, precise and polite. In stark contrast, southern and eastern Europeans attitudes are somewhat more… “relaxed”, in almost every respect. If you walk into an empty restaurant and two of you sit at a table for four you will be ordered (not asked) to move immediately. You may wait up to 15 minutes to order a drink and then wait a further 15 for them to arrive. Another 15 minutes will pass before you’re asked what you’d like to eat and if it’s off the menu the waiter(ess) will retire at once, for a further 15 minutes. An hour in and you might be able to order something to eat but don’t even think about paying up and leaving or complaining, as it will be made quite clear to you that it’s entirely your fault and that you shouldn’t have bothered frequenting their establishment in the first place.

If you want to pee, you’ve gotta pay for it
It seems to be a universal truth across continental Europe that, if you’re not at either a restaurant or cafe bar, then you’ll have to part with some coin in order to evacuate your bladder. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve just spent on petrol or if you’ve purchased several hefty sandwiches with accompanying drinks at a service station. If you’re at some type of attraction, say a museum or a castle you’ve already paid far too much funny money to get into. You might even find yourself walking around one of Europe’s finest cities with an excellent public transport system, a pristine road network and free public access to some of the finest culture in the world. However, no matter what you do or where you are, at every toilet you will find a small bowl, usually on a little table in front of a bedraggled old lady, dressed in her finest tabard, and you will not be allowed to pass her (or anything else for that matter) without stumping up the cash. Ok, so it’s usually around 50p a throw but still… and you’ve gotta think it’s maybe why some of these places have a rather ammonia-like scent that lingers in the air.

I think that’s about enough for now loyal reader, if I’m honest I can’t believe you stuck with me this far. In any case, stay tuned for the next instalment that I’ll almost certainly forget to write, coming to a computer screen near your face soon…