review: the adventures of tintin

the kiddo and i just took in the adventures of tintin. whoa.

rule number one with 3d movies: arrive early so as to avoid getting stuck in the front row aisle seats. at times i was taking my glasses off to avoid a feeling of nausea, and things get distorted at that angle - more than once i wondered why captain haddock's nose had changed shape. and, the gratuitous 3d showoffery (like dust in a sunbeam, rain, etc.) was annoyingly in our laps.

the look of the thing was spectacular though. the opening credits set the mood with classic 2d drawings rendered in 3d, to the sound of an accordion. the level of detail in the tintin books was always part of their charm; a few years ago tg and i caught an exhibit of herge's notes and sketches from his travels (in peru with tintin at the musee du civilisation in quebec city), and were astounded at the level of detail and accuracy in his imagined cities. so it was wonderful to see that the film stayed true to the books in that sense.

of course, writer steven moffat certainly has earned his stripes in the reverent-treatment-of-favourite-childhood-adventure-heroes department, and peter jackson's tolkein stuff tells all you need to know about how much he cares about visuals, so it is unsurprising that the film had a gorgeously authentic look and feel, and a script full of the expected tintin-style jokes with thomson & thomson (simon pegg and nick frost, doing an excellent job of being funny without slipping into their usual roles), haddock, et al, and a few clever tricks on the way to solving the mystery. spielberg contributed one of his standard the look/the awe/the reveal moments of course.

the problem was that there was so much going on at such high speeds at some point that it was impossible to really see or appreciate what was going on (tg made the same complaint about a transformer movie which i never bothered to watch - so much going on that it turns into a blur, and you don't see any of it. there also seemed to be a fair amount of playing up the 3d by making some foreground and background elements soft-focus, like all of those cupcake photos on flickr. especially at the angle we were at, the difficulty in just actually seeing the film was enough to take me out of it at times. i kept hoping i'd settle into it, which has happened eventually with other 3d films, but the film wouldn't let that happen - it was too busy showing off it's hi-tech effects. (it was nice seeing the stitch-definition on the sailors' sweaters though. naturally i was thinking "which of these sweaters is the kid most likely to wear if i knit it for him" throughout much of the film - i think tintin's classic yellow cabled vest would not fly, but haddock's royal blue turtleneck with anchor might.)

i think it even put the boy off a bit. (that and having to go pee.) he never seemed to react emotionally the way he usually does in movies - not scared, not edge-of-his-seat, not cheering, not laughing. by the end, he was just getting bored. although he was highly engaged on our walk back to the car, by an led screen showing the lotto draw ("they got two 3s! a match! i saw it!"). no accounting for taste.

still, there were some nice performances throughout. and tintin himself, jamie bell (aka billy elliott), did a q&a after the screening and proved to be surprisingly articulate and passionate about the whole thing - the original books, herge's writing style, modern hollywood ("you can't make a movie without making three these days, they're like buses that way"), motion capture (or as he called it, "performance capture"). he out-charmed revolting "host" ben mulroney by about a million lumens.

overall? it was enjoyable, but i think i should have insisted tg go instead of me.

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