“That’s the trouble with everybody: you’re all so bored,” David Thewlis’ philosophical bum rails in Mike Leigh’s Naked. “You’ve had the universe explained to you, and you’re bored with it. So, now you want cheap thrills and plenty of them.” These days we can even be bored with cheap thrills. With The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg has created another cinematic miracle: A motion-capture animated film not beholden to its various technological breakthroughs, the way Robert Zemeckis’ stiff digital experiments are. It’s a ripping boy’s adventure just happened to be buttressed by state-of-the-art technology.
Motion-capture is officially, at long last, no longer creepily off, while Spielberg makes like a kid with a new gadget. This isn’t “just” an animated film—it’s an animated film by a filmmaker freed of the burden of creating visuals with a pesky camera. The images can go anywhere, and frequently do—under a car, out a window, onto the nose of an airplane. A classically Spielberg chase—thrilling, witty, constantly evolving—done in one “shot?” Why not! Tintin is the most innovative cinematic experience since Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void. It’s also, in a way, alas, a little boring.
The problem is and isn’t the source: the so-called Hergé’s beloved Belgian comics about a wide-eyed, funky-haired, boyish journo/adventurer (voiced and embodied by Jamie Bell). Like many light, episodic entertainments from a bygone era, Tintin’s adventures tend to be forgettable page-turners—thrilling mid-imbibing, out of mind once the last page has been turned. We live in an era when every comic character requires an origin story, no matter how superfluous, and an earth-quaking plot where iconic villains cruelly perish. Kudos to Spielberg and writers (including Edgar Wright) for doing neither. This is, refreshingly, just another Tintin adventure.
And yet. Ultimately, there’s just not enough reason to care about Tintin or his globetrotting quest to either make one character (Andy Serkis’ drunken captain) rich or another (villainous Daniel Craig) richer. A procession from one set piece to the next, it’s a mere diversion—a mere $135 million diversion, pricey enough that, unlike the books, another episode isn’t waiting in the wings. Of course, leaving one wanting more isn’t the worst fault to have.