The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Haddock’s inspirational speech was the breaking straw

with 17 comments

1. I’ve been a Tintin fan for as long as I can remember. The albums were a part of my upbringing. Basically I know them by heart. I have no idea of how many times I’ve read them, but it’s probably closer to 100 than 10.

2. I like Steven Spielberg. A lot. Jaws, E.T, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s list, Minority Report. There are so many proofs that Spielberg generally kicks ass. He knows his craft.

3. I loved what Peter Jackson did with the ring trilogy. Sacrifices needed to be made and Tom Bombadill had to go, but considering how difficult it must have been, I think the result was amazing. For the record I only had three major complaints in the entire series: 1. Making Gimli into a laughable character and a target for dwarf tossing, 2. Legolas doing stupid skateboard/surfing moves in the fight and 3. Legolas doing some pretty silly swinging as he fought the olifants. That’s not a lot to be honest.

Following this I obviously had huge expectations for The Adventures of Tintin.

A beautiful line-up
Tintin + Spielberg + Jackson + modern, awesome animation technology starring the motion capture actor Andy Serkis who did such a great job as Gollum and in Rise of the Planet of the Apes – what could possibly go wrong with such a line-up?

It didn’t even bother me much that Fiffi didn’t like it. If you don’t know about Fiffi, she’s a Swedish film blogger, about my own age, just a way better writer than I am. It’s just a pity for the international film blogging community that she writes in Swedish, and in a way that is far too clever for Google translation to capture. However, for all my admiration for her, we often have slightly different opinions about movies. She was crazy in love with Crazy, Stupid, Love. I wasn’t. I on the other hand fell for Submarine. She didn’t.

In the case of Tintin, she wrote (in my own clumsy translation) something along those lines:

“This first of Tintin’s adventures seen through the eyes of Steven Spielberg is something as weird as sparkling fireworks where you’ve only used pastel colours. It’s like making flambéed bananas but forgetting to light the liquid, like paying 3 000 bucks for a wedding make-up but not get water safe mascara, like sitting in a theatre saloon and see this high-tech miracle of comic adaptation and yet fall asleep. Yes, I did it. I fell asleep. Damn it, how I slept and I can’t blame the incredibly comfortable armchairs at the cinema in Sickla, no, it was the movie that was to blame, nothing else”.

I giggled a little but then I dismissed it, saying to myself: “Hey, Fiffi’s grumpy today. Almost everyone else has liked it. And falling asleep! Pfft! How could that even be possible? She must have had a really bad day.  But I won’t! I’m going to the theatre with an open mind, not clinging to the albums stricken by nostalgia, and I’m totally going to love this!”

But – and I think you already know where this is heading – I was sadly disappointed to see that I should have listened to Fiffi. For once we agreed completely about a movie. Not that it would have prevented me from watching it anyway; I needed to see this with my own eyes. But like her I won’t rush my feet off to see the follow-ups that will come.

Technically I suppose it’s well made. There are some scenes that look quite spectacular, such as the fighting between too ships at the sea and some beautiful transmissions from one scene to the other that made my jaw drop.  But I could never  rid myself of the thought that the characters are like those little collector’s models you can buy in Toy Stores for grown-ups at ridiculous prices. There was something plastic and completely dead about them.

And what is worse: they didn’t feel like themselves and that’s my biggest issue with the movie.

My complaints
However, let’s talk about my other complaints about Tintin first.

Above everything else, it’s messy. I can’t fathom what drove them to mix up the stories from several albums in the way they did. It doesn’t really add anything, it’s just confusing and distracting.

I kept waiting and waiting for the sea adventure to take off and for the professor to enter the story. He never did. Instead they went on a strange tour to the desert, where all of a sudden Castafiore turned up. It was as if they had taken a bunch of albums, cut them into pieces and randomly put them together and it felt ridiculous and wrong.

Sure, there’s a lot of action going on, not a quiet second. But action doesn’t equal tension and suspense. As a matter of fact – and to my astonishment – I found myself bored. Yes, you read it right: bored. It was the last reaction I would have expected from a Spielberg movie. Here they were fighting with the villains, being chased or chasing themselves all over the world to put the puzzle pieces together, and I kept looking at my watch, wondering if it still was working since the pointers seemed not to move forward as they should. I didn’t fall asleep like Fiffi, but I can’t deny that I was tempted, especially as I watched it inAmsterdam, where they have proper theatres unlike the pit hole we have in my home town.

What was worst though was, as I said earlier, that the characters felt so alien. The word “imposer” came to my mind. It was as if someone had taken a polyjuice elixir, dressing up like Tintin and Haddock, pretending to be them, but failing badly in the way they acted.

Inspriational speech
The breaking point was when Captain Haddock out of the blue feels compelled to hold an inspirational speech to Tintin. Since I’m a sucker for rhetoric, I usually don’t mind that little outburst right before the final fight scene is about to take off, which seems mandatory in American movies. But Haddock telling Tintin not to give up? That’s just wrong. So wrong.

I hate to write negative reviews and I wish I could disagree with Fiffi on this one. But I have to be honest: I didn’t like this at all. It’s possible though that I’ have too much Tintin album love flowing in my veins to be able to judge this in a fair and balanced way.

If you disagree with me, I’m really happy for you. But for my own part I’ll stick to the albums for the future.

The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg, 2011) My rating: 2,5/5

Written by Jessica

November 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

17 Responses

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  1. Interesting Jessica, very interesting.

    I have very little interest in seeing this. I have heard lots of raving about it and it is nice to hear someone giving it a decidedly average review. Which weirdly makes me want to go and check it out more.

    Thanks for the great read my friend

    Scott Lawlor

    November 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

    • Thank you very much! Well, while I didn’t enjoy it I still don’t regret seeing it. It’s a rather big event when those gentlement make a movie together. Even if the result wasn’t what I had hoped for I want to be able to participate in the discussion.


      November 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm

  2. Haha, I really enjoyed your Fiffi-translation — well done! Interesting that you thought it disjointed storywise since I have the impression that many regard this particular detail as fairly successful.


    November 9, 2011 at 11:15 am

    • Thanks! I guess it felt disjointed because I kept thinking about how the “real” story was. It might be perceived differently by someone who hasn’t read it before.


      November 9, 2011 at 9:24 pm

  3. I think like you did with Fiffi I will probably plunge along and hope that I find you to be wrong. I have no history with Tintin, being the American I am, I had to be informed that this was different than Rin Tin Tin. Now, you are a big Spielberg fan so that can’t be the saving grace (he’s my #3 director of all time and I’ve seen every one of his many features, I’d have to see Tintin simply for completionism) but sometimes hope in the face of long odds is the best strategy to film watching.


    November 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    • I really hope you’ll find me wrong. Not being a Tintin fan since birth probably helps.


      November 9, 2011 at 9:29 pm

  4. You know, it’s interesting. I’ve been hearing a lot of conflicting reports about this film. Some people have called it a non-stop action thrill ride with a slick plot and fun characters. Others have said that the action is overwhelming and the plot is a mess. Literally, directly conflicting. Everybody seems to agree that the Tintin is a little bland, but then Tintin was always kind of a bland character. It was always the world around him that made the albums (and the French/Canadian cartoon version) so fun.

    Your review, honestly, doesn’t worry me too much. It’s extremely well written, but you also make clear your extremely personal connection with the property. I grew up with Tintin, getting introduced to it through the cartoons on TV and then picking up the albums. I’ve read them all, and I think I’ve watched the whole cartoon. But I haven’t been a religious fan. It was just something I really enjoyed, especially as a kid who was also into the Indiana Jones series. As such, when I first heard a few years ago that Spielberg would be making a Tintin movie with Peter Jackson I got excited. I don’t expect the film to be faithful. I expect it to be a Spielberg movie that uses the Tintin world that offered so much fun and adventure in those other formats.

    Give me fun and adventure and I’ll very likely enjoy myself. I’m not worried about the film being unfaithful to the source material, though I am worried about the possibility that the story in the film isn’t that great and that Spielberg might have focused too much on the look and the action than actually telling a good tale. That said, there have been enough great reviews that I am still extremely excited. In the end, I just hope I’m not as disappointed as you are.

    Corey Atad

    November 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    • I think you’re approaching this absolutely the right way and I really wish you all the best! And yes, it seems as if the audience really is falling apart in two camps here. I wish I was in the other camp. Being enthusiastic is more fun than bitching.


      November 9, 2011 at 9:31 pm

  5. Hollywood has gone Belgian crazy this year. First the smurfs and now Tintin, it looks like they discovered our typical Flemish comics of which there are a lot.

    I’m a big Spielberg fan myself so I’ll judge it for myself.


    November 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    • I think I can live without the smurfs though. 😉
      And I really hope you’ll enjoy Tintin more than I did.


      November 9, 2011 at 9:23 pm

  6. Told you =)

    Your post cement the fact that I won’t see this anytime soon. My fiance did go and see it in the theater and did like it but both you and Fiffis reviews are confirming what I was afraid with this adaptation.

    Joel Burman

    November 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    • Oh, I still think you should watch it in a theatre and make your own opinon. Don’t be cheap! The theatres need our support! And you know… your fiance might be right. As evident there are many different opinions about this one.


      November 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      • Sorry I’m saving my money this time around I have a bunch of films I need to see this fall that I find more interesting. I might actually try to catch Ruben Östlunds latest feature will it play in Uppsala?

        Joel Burman

        November 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm

  7. Oooooo, Jessica, you´re so cute! I´m sitting here blushing like a kräfta.
    Thank you for all the kind words and I´m glad (and a bit proud) that we for once have the same opinion about a movie but I´m also a bit sad that it had to be Tintin. I so wanted you to like it..


    November 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    • Oh how I wish we had disagreed on this one. I really, really tried. And it felt so strange to be so bored. I couldn’t believe you had been until I watched it myself. Then I understood.


      November 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm

  8. I had two big problems with the film: It was very annyoimg having Tittin telling to viewers everything he does and what he is thinking. this was very disturbing the first half of the movie. Haddocks speech had nothing to do in a movie about Tintin.
    It was a ok movie that could`ve been worse. I don´t have the samt confidence in either Spielberg or Jackson as you have Jessica so I had big doubts about the movie.


    November 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    • I never thought about the explanations, but now that you mention it… yeah. That wasn’t particularly good either. Another thing that I haven’t gotten into in the review is that I didn’t like the feel about Haddock overall, not just that silly speech. There was something about his scottish accent that just didn’t feel right. But I suppose you get a lot of ideas of how “it should be” when you’ve read it as many times as I have.


      November 13, 2011 at 10:54 am

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