Although I pre-ordered the DVD ahead of time, I ordered it from the US and thus waited several weeks for the Blu-ray disc to arrive in the mail. Therefore, this review is something like a month late, at least. While you can still see this blog’s original reviews of the movie here (Chris’ review) and here (my review), I will once again review some elements of the film, especially those that I missed or hit little on after I saw it in theaters. Also, I’ll review the DVD itself and its bonus features.
If you don’t have a clue what the movie is about, click on the first link above, Chris’ review. He does a good job of summing things up for the non-Tintin fanatic. You really don’t have to know a thing about Tintin to enjoy and understand the film at all, even if you miss the nods to the source material. The story line is simple enough that children as well as adults can understand what is going on, yet it is complex enough for adults to enjoy as well. Similarly, the clever lines in the dialogue, the physical humor going on between the actors, and the intense action of a Spielberg film add to the fun of the film for the adult, without becoming too intense or going over kids’ heads. The film was rated ”PG,” but I honestly believe it was one of the best family films to come out last year. There is ”cartoon action violence” for sure, often very cool-looking too, but for the most part the movie’s tone is simply fun and fast paced as opposed to serious and dramatic. The ”PG” rating is also due to the fact that Captain Haddock, Tintin’s friend and partner on his future adventures, has an often very comical drinking problem throughout the movie. This is so much a part of the source material it could not (and should not) be changed. But far from being a movie that promotes heavy drinking, alcohol actually drives a wedge between Tintin and Haddock’s friendship at one point, and it is only by staying sober that Haddock can really face his problems. The main gist of the story is that it’s an action-packed race for a secret treasure between a heroic boy named Tintin and his faithful dog, Snowy, against a sinister villain. If you are a mom or dad out there looking for a good movie for the family to watch, don’t hesitate to pick this one up.
For those of you who know and love Tintin, you probably have seen the movie already (if you haven’t, shame on you!) and, based on what I’ve seen on this blog and around the internet, have probably either bought the DVD already or are not planning to. I’d just like to point out some things I noticed when I watched the movie again last night. For one thing, the movie has tremendous replay value. I’ve noticed several critics on the internet criticize the film because Tintin feels like a very one-dimensional character, and they were hoping for something more emotional, where you feel more sorry or happy for the character. I will admit that, compared to other animated movies ( I won’t go into whether or not it’s an animated movie…for now, since it won a Golden Globe for Best Animated Film, and the makers of the movie consider it as such, let’s just assume that it is), Tintin didn’t produce half of the emotions in me as Pixar did with Wall.E, or Carl from Up. The movie didn’t leave a lot of time for character development (even if they did, in my opinion, develop the characters quite a bit more than some sites are giving the film credit for). But Tintin, both in the movies and the albums (at least those set around the time of ”The Secret of the Unicorn”), wasn’t that kind of character. Hergé isn’t trying to make his audience laugh and cry so much as he’s trying to make them laugh and enjoy the ride. In a time like the 30s, and especially later on during WWII, Tintin provided an excellent escape for people, especially children, a way to go see far away, exotic places as they went on a wild adventure in Tintin’s shoes with fun characters like Captain Haddock or Thomson and Thompson. With the economy how it is today and times being what they are, it would be good for people to take a few hours to be taken away from their troubles on a high definition adventure from Europe to Morocco, bringing along the old gang of characters with them. Because of the focus put on the actual adventures, the film is an experience that I enjoyed just as much the second time around as the first time, if not more, and I hope to soon watch the film a third time. A movie worth buying on DVD, as opposed to one worth renting or…well, you know what people do these days, is a movie that you can watch over and over again and continue to love. Tintin is that kind of movie.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to reduce Hergé’s albums to adventures with characters that exist merely to go on an adventure. Tintin DOES have more depth than that. Among those on the internet whom I have found were most offended by the movie are those who think that Tintin is not a good enough character (having not read the books) and those that do not think Tintin lived up to who Tintin REALLY is in the albums. And I’ll admit their argument does have some truth to it…some, mind you. From the point of view of somebody who has no idea who Tintin is, he may leave the movie not knowing honestly that much more about him than when he started…and he may have expected a bit more than ”Tintin is a reporter (sorry, a journalist…I love the film, but did that line bother anybody else? I mean, Tintin has always been a reporter…even in French, the word is borrowed from English) who gets caught into a really cool adventure with his really smart dog. He is very resourceful, has the mind of a detective, is extremely motivated to see things through, and always wins somehow in the end.” For the most part, audiences learn almost nothing more than that about Tintin in Tintin 1. Some Tintin fans, I think, wanted to see more of Tintin than that. A few moments even seem inconsistent with his character (such as the part when Haddock actually talks Tintin into not giving up, something that most often occurs the other way around in the comics). Yet even with that scene, Tintin quickly gets back up on his feet and is back to solving mysteries, defeating crime and searching for Red Rackham’s treasure. The movie is not flawless, but it is also far more than a bundle of good intentions. It was a very respectful adaptation that came pretty close. The truth is that the brief description of Tintin I just mentioned far from sums up everything he is…but it is all true. I believe that the film has faithfully shown all of those characteristics he has, especially with the limited time and I hope that as more films progress they can hit more of his qualities that just aren’t or even can’t really be shown in The Secret of the Unicorn. I’ll hit on this more in an upcoming post.
”Tintin” is also worth the money because of the amount of detail in each shot. It took about four hours to render every FRAME in this movie. I don’t care how many times you saw the film in theaters, I guarantee you that you missed all kinds of fascinating things in the movie, some you couldn’t have seen if you tried. For example, in the opening credits there is a stack of newspapers that comes off the press announcing the selling of Marlinspike Hall. If you pause the screen right there, you can actually read, quite clearly, the entire front page of the newspaper, including a humorous article in a side column about a man with impeccable punctuality at his job who is reported missing after not coming to work. When the uncaring wife of the ”victim” is told of the news of his disappearance, she simply replies: ”Good riddance.” After that the police hope that the man will come back on his own after a while, having come to the conclusion that the man must have simply decided it was a good idea to stay away from his wife for a little while… I haven’t taken the time to read them yet, but I’m sure all of the newspapers on Tintin’s wall have long stories worth reading on them as well. If you missed any of the obvious references to the albums (I can’t believe I was so busy looking at Snowy when he chases the villains across the city that I missed the window of ”E. Cutts” …I laughed for quite a while, firstly because of the reference to the albums’ running gag, but secondly because now I finally know what was up with the cows…) or even some of the less obvious nods to the source material, the DVD is the only way to make sure you catch them all for certain.
Anybody who has seen the movie knows how stunning the visuals of the film are. Apparently some people still don’t like the faces (though I disagree with one critic who blames the faces for the reason the DVDs aren’t selling terribly well in the USA). On viewing the film a second time, I’ll admit there were a FEW places in which the faces didn’t seem quite natural…especially when Tintin grins. But for the rest of the movie I was beyond comfortable with their faces and eyes, loving every detail on their face, every hair in Tintin’s quiff, every grain of sand on his neck and every drop of sweat on their skin. I understand many of you don’t have Blu-ray players (I didn’t get one myself until a few months ago) but, if ever there were a film to see in Blu-ray, it’s this one.
If for no other reason, sadly, because the bonus features are only available on the Blu-ray disc. I watched all ninety minutes of them, and honestly, I could have kept on going for another ninety. For somebody like myself who has been following the movie for the past 5 years through this blog, it’s fascinating to watch the things I’d only read were going on in Hollywood and New Zealand around the same time. The features open with ”Toasting Tintin: Part 1,” a video of Spielberg starting out work on the film reading a toast written by Fanny, the widow of Hergé, who gives her blessing and praise to what they were doing. The features end with a video of Spielberg toasting the film after it is finally finished, watched by the people down at Weta (I think) , projected on a cinema screen on a kind of Skype program, and sharing the screen with Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis. In between the two they show all the crazy things they did in the making of the movie, from animating Snowy’s hair to creating umbrella props that are only an umbrella’s frame, so that the open umbrella doesn’t cover up any points the motion capture cameras need to see. You can see some models built to show what Morocco or Tintin’s apartment would look like before they were digitally created. And you even get some brief interviews from minor actors in the film such as Toby Jones or Gad Elmaleh, along with some videos of Michael Farr, the Hergé biographer. Perhaps my favorite part was seeing footage of the real actors in ”The Volume” pretending to ride a motorcycle that isn’t moving or swim in water that isn’t there! It is certainly worth it to get the Blu-ray copy to see how the movie was made, even if you already know from following the movie for years. You will be surprised just how much you didn’t know.
This may be a minor thing for some Americans, but I’m also enjoying the DVD because I can listen to the other language tracks. In my opinion, the film is dubbed extremely well in French (and rightfully so!), and I enjoy using my limited knowledge of the language watching Tintin. A friend of mine will soon get together to watch it in Spanish. Movies are often poorly dubbed in Europe to a degree that I almost can’t stand to watch an American movie in any other language but English, but Tintin is different.
I can’t speak for the 3D disc. I own it, but don’t have a 3D player or TV to go with it. I don’t have plans to get one in my immediate future either, so until one magically falls into my lap, that disc will be resting on my shelf. The dvds also came with a code for a digital ”Ultraviolet”copy, but I don’t think that works here in Europe…I’m not sure, I haven’t tried it yet.
I have recently read a good number of negative reviews for Tintin on DVD, and while it’s interesting to read what they have to say (sometimes), I strongly disagree with most of their reviews. At first some of their arguments seem to make sense, especially if you take the movie for something it isn’t…and it kind of takes some of the fun out of the movie to hear them go on and on. But when I actually stuck the DVD into my player and Tintin started to come up on screen, I completely forgot everything they had to say. Because I loved the film, from frame one to end credits. Not just because I really want to love the film, but because it is a really, really good movie with a good balance of moments when I’m laughing and moments were I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s not perfect, and my next post, now that I have the DVD to refer to, will be some suggestions and positive criticism on how I think Tintin 2 could be even better. But as far as Tintin 1 goes…I waited almost six years for it, and there is something overwhelmingly wonderful about going from having to stare at 5 HD images from a film years away to owning every image in the film, that I can bring up on my screen as many times as I want. Of going from watching the trailer 10.000 times to being able to watch the whole film again and again and again. I have never been so happy to own a particular DVD in my life. I’m sorry for those who don’t get the same experience out of the film as I do…and I honestly hope that you can see the movie as the joy that it is.