A movie version of the beloved Hergé books and television show has been on the cards for a number of years. Stemming back to the early 80's where Spielberg hired E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial writer, Melissa Mathison, to pen a script, the maestro has seen the process through thirty years on to direct the $130m spectacle. Now sees a collaborative effort from three fine, young talents that form the basis for the story: Shaun of the Dead writer/director, Edgar Wright, Sherlock and Dr. Who series scriber, Steven Moffat, and Attack the Block visionary, Joe Cornish.
It's an experience of firsts; Spielberg tackles an animated feature as well as Tintin seeking his debut in Hollywood, but will the hype and expectation be met? Recent chatter suggests the beard is losing his touch: a man past his best, especially after affiliation with such atrocities as Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
From the opening title sequence, it's clear how faithful and lovingly crafted the feature is: a tonally perfect score juxtaposed with classic cartoon-style animation that smoothly takes us into the film, which at times you could mistake for live action: the animation and attention-to-detail is that believable, in a largely uncomplicated in a charmingly nostalgic adventure.
In fact, Spielberg plays to his strengths as he expresses a aesthetic similar to Indiana Jones and perhaps what the fourth Indy instalment should have been. He doesn't seem encumbered by recent criticism, either: instead assuming a back-to-basics approach that proves more than satisfactory, especially combining it with the jaw-dropping visuals courtesy of (producer) Peter Jackson's Weta Digital (Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
The animation is consistently a sight to behold and at times you could mistake it for live-action: it's that well made. Smooth, cleverly constructed scene transitions are used to blend the action into something tonally in keep with Hergé’s work and add to an escapism that feels neither forced nor whimsical. One particular scene late on in the third act is a true spectacle that races at top speed during the thrills of a chase, taking innovation and sequencing to a new level.
Whilst The Secret of the Unicorn offers very little in original story telling and structure, it makes up with an enjoyable narrative and likeable characters. However, you perhaps won't warm to Tintin (Jamie Bell) as much as you will to Andy Serkis's Captain Haddock who features as the story's dominant protagonist with the best one-lines. Cuddly-looking mongrel, Snowy, also proves equally winsome as a sidekick detective, as these personas balance out the - at times - juvenile comedy. Fortunately, the majority of the humour comes across as amusing rather than childishly annoying.
The 3D does enhance the experience, especially said impressive action sequences, but - as with every other conversion - the picture looks dark and drab. Yet another unconvincing use of the format, the visual aspect of the third dimension was pleasant, if not entirely necessary.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn presents nothing original in its manner of storytelling; it's family orientated, yet appeals to a mature audience with a charm and sensibility that remains faithful to its source material. Spielberg bounces back from less acclaimed recent efforts with a beautifully looking, hugely enjoyable adventure.