Review of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

I never read Tintin as a child as Tintin was quite obviously for the squares, for children whose parents made you take your shoes off at the door, who wouldn’t let you watch Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It and who owned a BBC Micro. I read Asterix instead. I was pretty uncool, but at least I knew it and was making an effort to improve myself.

So, I hadn’t planned to see the Spielberg-directed The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn but after a cold stomp across the Heath it seemed like a good way to calm myself down after becoming enraged at the entire grasping, over-priviledged population of Hampstead getting in my face, and it was going to be that or a documentary on Joyce Vincent which probably wasn’t going to help my mood.

Tintin turned out to be excellent. I can’t tell you how well it stands as an adaptation of the comics — it’s possible that Tintinologists will watch the whole thing spluttering with rage at clothing inaccuracies and not enough racism — but as a film in its own right it had pretty much everything I’d hoped for. With its c1940s setting it’s all machine guns, motorbikes and globe-trotting for clues; Secret of the Unicorn ends up feeling more like a good Indiana Jones film than most Indiana Jones films. The action is thrilling and a Steven Moffat-drafted script subsequently polished by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish sparkles.

Everything looks and sounds great. The almost-photorealistic nature of the animation, usually used to generate nightmarish images of Tom Hanks, is pretty good here because the characters tend to have facial hair and long noses and whatnot and look like the exaggerated cartoon caricatures that they are. The only one letting the side down is Tintin himself; by lacking any distinguishing features besides his quiff he’s left with a blank, doughy face and looks like he’d be happier leaning against a shack, playing a banjo. It doesn’t spoil the film, but it takes some getting used to.