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The Adventures of Tin Tin & The Secret of the Unicorn (Steven Spielberg – 2011) Movie Review

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Tin Tin is a visual feast; a wondrous exploration of the boundaries of computer animation and performance capture. The titanic creative forces of Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright (writer/director Shaun of the Dead), Joe Cornish (director/writer Attack the Block), and Steven Moffatt (Executive Producer Dr Who) all converge on the great Herge source material and bring it to life in an almost indescribable way.

The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn follows intrepid reporter Tin Tin and the surly Captain Haddock on their search for a sunken treasure ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor; but what shady forces look to get their way?

Let’s travel back for a second to the wake of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. As Spielberg toured the film around Europe he repeatedly heard people saying that the film felt like Tin Tin. Having never heard of Herge or Tin Tin he quickly acquired the books and very shortly after reading he was inspired to purchase the filmic rights to the source material and developed a relationship with Herge, then his wife after his passing. Spielberg held onto the rights for several decades, deciding against bringing the stories to the screen because he was unable to manufacture that ‘Herge-aesthetic’. Fast-forward to the recent past and Peter Jackson, a massive fan of the Herge novels and a digital technology pioneer, invited Spielberg to join forces with him to bring a potential Tin Tin trilogy to the screen.

The animation is nothing short of spectacular. It’s so clearly “Herge’ yet is able to feel more ‘real world’ than ever before. Spielberg’s directorial style shines through in the opening stanza of the film. Raiders and Tin Tin both open with our established and somewhat famous/infamous protagonist diving headlong into a mystery of epic proportions. The intimacy of the opening stanza show’s off the detail of the animation. These animated constructs are as alive as their performance-capture counterparts. Spielberg unchained in the animated world is really an extension of his iconic style. Where his influences (e.g David Lean) shine through in his live action – Spielberg-style ‘animated’ has the scope of his eye catching set pieces infused with the boundless warmth of Chuck Jones classical Warner Bros. cartoons. The transitions between scenes alone are marvellous.

The characterisations from the motion capture performers is phenomenal. Jamie Bell’s Tin Tin captures the icon from the page but Andy Serkis’ Captain Haddock breaks out of the pages and into life stealing the show from start to finish. Haddock’s humour, drunken stumbling and perpetually precarious wandering (all to ensure that he’s well and truly liquored up) make it very hard for the audience to not love every moment he’s on screen. Daniel Craig provides the motion capture villainy with Rackham – who looks (funny as it may seem) a little like Spielberg himself. The iconic Thomson and Thompson are assayed splendidly by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. They both relish in the shoes of the bumbling lawmen. They waddle around like lost ducks, firing their great confused chemistry in every scene and had me chuckling from the moment that I saw them.

It’s only now several years late that you’re left grasping at why the filmmakers seemed to have paused the momentum on what could (and really should) have been an excellent first entry to an enduring cinematic adaption to Herge’s endless well of stories.

[rating=4]

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

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Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Produced by: Peter Jackson

Written by: Steven Moffat (screenplay), Edgar Wright (screenplay), and Joe Cornish (screenplay) based on the Herge source material.

Starring (the motion capture performances of): Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Daniel Craig

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