Movie Review: The Bigger, Better Adventures of Tintin

Although Steven Spielberg got crazy rich from all those CGI-heavy Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park roller-coaster movies, I’ve always preferred his films when there’s a kind of tension between his magically fluid style and the texture of the real world — when his camera moves through gritty actual places instead of specially designed never-never lands in which the laws of gravity don’t apply. Well, that preference flew right out the window during the first scenes of his 3-D, computer-animated The Adventures of Tintin. Freed from earthly restrictions, Spielberg can be the slapstick-action wizard of his (and our) wildest dreams. Everything he did in live-action movies with rolling boulders and runaway convoys he does bigger and better — by a factor of ten — in every frame. At the end of two hours, my jaw ached from grinning.

The marvelous credit sequence invokes Tintin’s original form in the comic strip by Herge (born Georges Prosper Remi, in Brussels), the flat "ligne claire" drawings with their bold colors and breathless-slapdash sense of movement, and you might feel a surge of disappointment when it ends and the film shifts to less charmingly old-fashioned multidimensional animation. That disappointment will pass. Spielberg’s punchy foregrounds and multiple planes of action (a joke or nutty curlicue on every plane!) will have you goggle-eyed. The camera is in constant motion, so what’s in back will inevitably come to the fore and seize the space, upend your perspective, bombard you with new planes of action, new jokes and curlicues. No one has ever had the means — or the talent — to use deep focus like this. You can imagine Orson Welles — whose The Magnificent Ambersons is the gold standard, who famously praised the young Spielberg as the first director to shoot "without the proscenium arch" — rocking with laughter, belly heaving, coughing out cigar smoke. Read More...


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