Links

Its all in French so I’ve no idea what it says but appears to be a mashup of several works.

Captain Haddock, Editorial, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, The Secret of the Unicorn

Problems Facing the Tintin Movie

I love Tintin. Growing up with dyslexia meant that I always struggled with written words so discovering Tintin was revelation. The beautiful images and fast moving, boys-own style adventures made Tintin’s world real to me in a way that a book never could. Over the years I have revisited Tintin many times and got something new out of it each time but one of the things I’ve pick up is that Tintin isn’t written very well. Before I get ripped to shreds by rabid fans, I need to be clear about what is wrong with Herge’s writing and why this could result in some terrible films.

Tintin and Amazing Coincidences

I’ve got Secret of the Unicorn in front of me as an example. Tintin goes to the market where he meets Thomson and Thompson who are investigating a spate of thefts by pickpockets. Tintin spots the model Unicorn and decides to buy it for Captain Haddock. Just then not one, but two other people try to buy it. After fending off these other buyers, Tintin presents the ship to Captain Haddock who immediately recognises it as a model belonging to his ancestor. Adventures ensue as the other parties interested in the ship try and retrieve it and the clue it contains. Eventually the bad guys are arrested but two of the clues that were hidden inside the ship have been stolen. Fortunately these are recovered when Thomson & Thompson’s catch the pickpocket who had lifted the wallet carrying the clues.

This chain of coincidences stretches credibility. Its a large coincidence that Tintin would happen to buy a model ship sailed by Captain Haddock’s ancestor but one that can be swallowed. However that he buys it just before the two other interested parties also discover it purely by chance is stretching credibility. Add on the whole pick pocket angle and the coincidences become too large. Rather than build a credible, coherent plot, Herge’s has chosen to hang everything on a series of coincidences. This might be a deliberate and clever style of plot construction but it strikes me as bad or lazy writing that posses all sorts of problems for making a Tintin movie.

Tintin: The Next Harry Potter?

The Tintin movies are being made now because the first time, technology allows the film makers to create a real universe and not just an animated version of Herge’s art. This would not matter if it wasn’t for the success of the Harry Potter and the Narnia films. Studios have seen that creating a faithful, high quality adaptation of a children’s book can draw in lots of adults and not just those with kids. This poses the makers with two problems. Firstly they have to make a faithful adaptation of the books and secondly they have to make a good film that appeals to adults who aren’t not die-hard fans of the books. With the Harry Potter and Narnia films they achieved this but can it be done with Tintin?

I don’t think they can. What mainstream film’s plot is so dependent on coincidences as in The Secret of the Unicorn? None. Sure, in action sequences you see heros dive out of windows and just happen to land in a pile of boxes but that isn’t the same thing. Audiences accept that because it makes the film exciting and dynamic. Coincidences that drive the plot are something else entirely. This leaves the film makers two options. Change the plot and nature of Tintin (thus angering the fans) or just do a faithful adaptation (thus alienating the non-fans). Neither of these option will make a good film.

Once the film makers start altering Tintin to fit the big screen, as they must, I think the magic of Tintin will unravel. What makes the Tintin books so enjoyable is the farcical nature of the plots but I don’t think these will work on the big screen. Modern films, even children’s films, are relatively complex where as Tintin, despite the busy and detailed artwork, have a simplicity to them. To recreate the magic of Tintin on the big screen the makers of the Tintin movie have to get a square peg into a round whole. Jackson and Spielberg are great directors but this may be beyond even their talents.