Review By Stu - The Adventures of Tin Tin

Please run to the nearest window and shout in a clear rejoicing voice "They've done it, they've finally cracked the code!!". Granted this may sound strange to anyone who happens to be walking past at the time but the minute they see The Adventures of Tin Tin, people will appreciate your crazy ravings. The Adventures of Tin Tin - The Secret of the Unicorn is an animated film adaptation of the Belgian classic comic book series which follows a young journalist, Tin Tin (Jamie BELL), and his trusty side kick Snowy as they set off on an unexpected journey sees them crossing vast oceans, surviving deserts and retracing the steps of heroes from long ago all of which is shot using motion capture animation.

I will openly admit that I have never read a single Tin Tin book and I have no real point of reference except the various covers that I have seen over the years in school libraries and book shops as I searched for the next Asterix and Obelix story. This either makes me the ideal audience for the film or just a creepy guy sitting in a kids film. The most curious thought for me is who is involved in the production of this film. The film is directed by a relatively unknown American director by the name of Steven Spielberg who up til now has only really been known in the independent cinema circles making films such as Jaws, Indiana Jones and something about a flying alien. As if the studio wasn't taking a big enough risk on the director they had the film produced by a guy who's only real accomplishment has been the Lord of the Rings franchise, being Peter Jackson. To top it off the two men were given a limitless budget and a medium in which they could both let their imaginations run wild.

We have seen this situation countless times before in which great artists are given free reign and they produce sub standard films. George Lucas was guilty of this in his Star Wars prequels because no one is powerful enough to tell these Hollywood icons that they are wrong. What we usually get are films which are self indulgent and bloated. They rely too heavily on computer graphics to make us believe the worlds they are creating. Great art needs a few key ingredients such as conflict, drama, limitations and passion. This is what made Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola such great directors in the 1970's and 1980's. They were driven to bring their various stories to the screen and in order to do this they had to find creative ways to make their meagre budgets stretch far enough. The limitations of lighting, money, costume and time forced them to problem solve and use all their skill to produce the very best film. This was my fear going into Tin Tin, whether or not Spielberg and Jackson would fall for the trap of limitless conditions. Simply put they don't.

They don't fall for the trap because this is the perfect medium for these men. If they can control everything from lighting, to set design to emotional reactions of the characters then this means that every frame which is on the scene is exactly as the story teller requires it to be and in this film that is exactly how it feels. Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest story tellers of the modern era because he brings a sense of tension to his stories, there are some breathtaking set pieces in this film which are reminiscent of the boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark or the mine cart race in Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom. Spielberg builds the tension by naturally integrating a timing mechanism into the scene, for instance in one spectacular sequence involving a sword fight on a pirates ship a line of gun powder is lit in order to destroy the ship, as the sword fight continues the powder is continually lit and put out as the fight continues throughout the various levels of the ship. This simple idea keeps the energy levels eye and keeps the audience engaged. Spielberg has created a believable world mostly grounded in reality, whilst the film does indulge in a some simple plot devices to keep the story ticking over from time to time.

The film pays tribute to the original text in style and through blunt references to the comic, most noticeably at the beginning of the film when tin tin has his portrait taken. Spielberg also plays tribute to nearly every film he has ever made, the most obvious references being Jaws, Hook and Indiana Jones however I'm sure there are many more hidden in the backgrounds. The cast were all exceptional especially Andy Serkis (Gollum from lord of the Rings) who plays the gruff Captain Haddock as he sets out to clear his family name and discover who he really is. Daniel Craig sounded like he was relishing his chance to break the James Bond mould to play a villain as Ivanovich Sakharine. The inclusion of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as Thompson and Thomson the ever bumbling police officers brought not only excellent comic relief but also showed the influence of screenwriter Edgar Wright ( Director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz). The editing of the film is fantastic, the story is never allowed to dwell too long on any particular plot point which keeps the tempo up.

As Rango ushered in a new standard for animation The Adventures of Tin Tin may just have raised the bar for animated film story telling. Steven Spielberg reminds us why he is the master of action adventure tales. I hope that this is the start of the a new franchise and I will happily see more adventures.

The Adventures of Tin Tin is in cinemas Australia wide from December 1st.

(Review written by Stu)

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