Steven Spielberg wants to have his cake, and eat it too. Yet with the best use of motion capture to date, he has managed to translate the story of Tintin, his dog snowy (or milou in french) and the eccentric Captain Haddock into a terrific action adventure movie that serves as a clever cross between “Pirates Of The Caribbean” and “Indiana Jones”. As a longtime fan of the comics, I was amazed by how neat it looked on screen. The challenge for Spielberg and his team of writers was to come up with a storyline that would give our hero some room to grow, with colorful co-stars and non-stop action. I think it’s safe to say that they’ve pulled it off pretty well. I was even pleased to see how respectful Spielberg was with the handling of the original material. The movie never feels like a ripoff, on the contrary, everything is precisely how the Belgian creator, Hergé had imagined it: with that same sense of adventure, mystery, intrigue, action and fun (he even pays homage to Hergé by having him appear as a street artist drawing the portrait of Tintin the way we knew him from the comics; this was pure movie magic in my opinion). In a way, those same elements were also at the center of one of Spielberg’s masterpieces, “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”.
We first meet our hero as soon as the movie opens, his eye caught by a model ship on display at a flee market. “A unicorn” he says. And so begins the hunt for a treasure that will send Tintin and his faithful dog on a voyage across oceans and deserts, by ship, plane, jeep, motorbike…you name it. There is enough adventure for five movies, which is precisely what Spielberg intended to do (you have to know that it isn’t the adaptation of one, but three Tintin comics).
Visually, the film is astounding, as Spielberg takes full advantage of the freedom he was given, like a boy who’s just been told he can do whatever he wants for his birthday. One of the best scenes in the movie is a flash-back sequence, in which Captain Haddock recounts the sinking of the unicorn. This scene must rank as one of the most dazzling set pieces I’ve ever seen in an animated feature.
As we near the end of a year filled with disappointments, “The Secret Of The Unicorn” comes off as a rare gift. It is, quite simply, one of my favorite movies of the year. I hope it’s the smash hit it deserves to be.