The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) Re-View

Sometimes you can get caught up in the spectacle, excitement and novelty of a movie. It felt like I was always going to like a Tintin movie the first time I saw it because I grew up reading the books. All it had to do was resemble the books slightly, not change any major parts of the character and give me a nice nostalgic feeling, and I would think the film was brilliant.

It’s also the reason that watching a film you had such fond memories of, even if you only viewed that movie less than six months ago, often changes your perception for the worst. The spectacle is gone because you know what is coming. The excitement isn’t there because you’ve seen the movie and for those same reasons, you also lose the novelty.

The action hides the fact there is very little actual story or mystery involved.

This works against Tintin even more because what was a nice trip back into nostalgia actually ends up being one of its biggest faults. I still loved the exciting scenes, particularly the pirate ship battle and the chase through streets on an ever-decreasing motorbike, but found the lack of any real story infuriating. My biggest positive of the movie when I first reviewed it was that it was a great treat for the eyes, taking advantage of its animated medium. I was willing to overlook the fact it lacked any real story. On a second viewing, it needs a story to be worth watching again.

The problem is that the movie is very good at tricking you into thinking there is some kind of mystery to be solved. The truth is, on a second viewing, it becomes clear that there isn’t any real investigating going on. Considering Tintin is an investigative journalist, his journey and whole adventure is based more on luck than anything else. He doesn’t ever really “solve” anything, instead he stumbles across conveniently left clues or coincidental moments. It was hidden by the car chases and exciting plane rides through storms but when you watch a second time, the lack of depth becomes glaringly obvious.

I want much more an investigation and mystery; something I’m sure there was in the original books.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if Tintin was an original character, created by Spielberg and Jackson. The issue is that Tintin’s books always had a nice thread of mystery and investigation running through them. You felt like Tintin had worked to solve something out, always having a reveal of some sort hidden in the story. I’m not talking about a Sherlock Holmes style investigation, just something cleverer than falling over and catching the light between three pieces of paper.

Another aspect I overlooked last time was the feeling that we were watching the beginning of a story. The resolution to the mystery felt very weak considering the effort to reach it. The final line of the film is a tease to the next part of the story. It just felt like that next adventure should have factored into this movie somewhere too. In fact, the actual climax to the movie, considering how exciting some of the set-pieces had already been, was quite weak and I was surprised on my first viewing that it was how they were going to resolve the movie.

It’s still a good film, just not as good as the first time I saw it.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy watching Tintin again. I still love the action scenes and animation is clearly the way to do a Tintin movie. The characters are brilliantly realised, especially Captain Haddock, and I would love to see a sequel. I just hope there is more depth to the inevitable sequel’s story than there is in the first film.

Overall, Tintin manages to hide its lack of depth with some very spectacular, well realised action scenes. This is fine on your first viewing but when you know what’s coming, the lack of any real story, or worst, mystery, actually spoils the experience somewhat. I didn’t expect the rating of this movie to fall so much but its a lot closer to average than fantastic.

Rating 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Hopefully a sequel will be equal parts spectacle and brilliant story.
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3 comments

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I wanted to like TinTin and was so disappointed when the film failed to illicit any emotion be it excitement or tension. Visually, it’s a stunner but the story was … meh. What did you think about the voice talent casting?

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