Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Cast (voices of): Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Director: Steven Spielberg
Runtime: 107 min.
Verdict: An amusing yarn. The real story is that 3-D is a bother.
Genre: Animation, Fantasy, Adventure
I guess I’ve to do an about turn and finally admit that 3-D is a mistake. I still am optimistic, and Mr. Spielberg’s experimentation only fills me with hope. Yet, this exercise of declaring a film as the next 3-D champion is getting a little tiring, especially when tracking shots filming the action feel as if the camera were “outside” this holographic frame. The action itself feels like a projection, or a reproduction of the action, and the figures in the foreground feel especially translucent and hollow. I guess you’ve all had enough of those complaints, but they are true. The colors render the picture slight. The unfortunate thing is the movie in my memory is feeble and silvery like those 2-D holograms our textbooks had, the only brightness being caused by a two-dimensional portrait of Tintin Mr. Spielberg winks at us with (the painter is a look-alike of Herge). He winks at us a lot actually, nodding almost every Indiana Jones film, and embedding within the material the relation between Herge’s Tintin and his own treasure-seeking adventurer. A critic once compared Raiders of the Lost Ark to Tintin, and Mr. Spielberg’s intention is to not merely to nod in approval but to re-present the lad as Indiana Jones for kids. Not surprisingly, The Adventures of Tintin is one big chase sequence, effective and efficient. From start to finish a big amusing ride. This, in some ways, is a problem. A set of scrolls, like the infamous crystal skull exchange hands, and even claws, and after you had an exchange too many you just stop caring. The characters, and as a result the frames are in constant motion, not even for a moment taking the time to soak in the atmosphere. Adventure films usually have a quite moment of reflection, a moment where the motion simply stops, a moment that provides contrast, a moment that acts as a delimiter between the set-up and the climax. It is an odd world here, made of real benches and buildings and desert, and yet the bulged noses do not feel like an oddity. A study of the nature of the pact we sign with the animated film and the way we start to assimilate these oddities as norm would be a hugely interesting exercise. The motion capture, though, way better than the ones rendered in The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol still leave a character eyes feel as if they were suffering from cataracts, or really drunk. One is not sure precisely where the focal point of Captain Haddock’s eyes really rest, while Tintin’s eyes seem to be looking far and beyond. I suspect it is this inability to reflect upon, an inability to savor the moment, that causes most of the animated fare to be constantly on the move, to overcompensate.
Mr. Spielberg seems to be liberated by this foray into the animated medium, probably a trifle more than one would like him to be, the camera literally taking impossible flights of imagination, swirling and gliding and floating and swooping around the action, but never, not even for a moment, inside it. His intent seems to be to use the technology to create continuity through space and homogeneity through time, his on-the-run camera performing the function of the moving red line in the Indiana Jones films, the 2-D map becoming a 3-D globe here, a grand marriage of Herge’s ligne caire and the motion capture 3-D, the straightforward nature of the pencil lines drawing the plot being reflected in the continuous nature of the events. A climactic sword fight, fought by the clashing arms of two cranes, between the descendents of foes from a time gone by, is otherwise a bland little exercise, but when looked at through this prism of nostalgia achieves thematic substance. It is this “holographic” prism, steeped in the nostalgia of a different time and place, that Mr. Spielberg’s camera seems to be swooping and swirling about, these movements suggesting Mr. Spielberg might as well be the co-creator of Tintin. David Bordwell here analyzes the economy of Herge’s illustrations, and when one looks at Mr. Spielberg’s multi-planar action, where seemingly innocuous and amusing events in the foreground lead to an important lead later, it is tough not to imagine Mr. Spielberg working out his holographic “frames” as Herge’s panels, packing them with detail after detail. And while working that out, one feels, his brother from another mother liberates him from the compulsion to include the Nazis while picking up on storylines that were published around their time, and to play around with an antagonist who, more than anything else, is merely a madman driven by a need for vengeance. That makes him and his bumbling henchmen a little cute. And when Tintin and Captain Haddock do not dispose them off, but are considerate enough to pack them at the back of the plane, allowing them the opportunity to a sweet escape, it is, well, sweet. I guess Herge would’ve been relieved.