Friday 11 November 2011

Mostly Serkis

Went to see The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn with the family last night.  Mostly enjoyed it.

We used to go to the Odeon in Bracknell until three years ago, when a new Vue opened in Camberley, much closer to home.  My last 15 cinema trips (I keep notes, odd as that may seem) have all been to Camberley, but last night we broke the streak and went back to Bracknell, because Camberley were only showing Secret of the Unicorn at awkward times of day, and only in 3D, which none of us are that keen on.

Bracknell had changed a little bit, but not all that much.  Still more or less how I remembered it.  Seats less comfortable than the ones we've got used to in Camberley, but not enough to detract from the experience.

What did detract from the experience was the stuff in front of the film.  I don't know if all cinemas are the same, but both of ours tend to show ads for non-film-related stuff, then film trailers, then the actual movie that you paid to see.  Well, last night, all of the non-film ads were a load of utter dreck apart from one for McCain's chips, which avoided the usual food-ad cliche of focussing on a nauseously-grinning family eating the product for the whole runtime, and instead showed the chips being made and tested by little machines, designed mainly in the Heath Robinson tradition but with a bit of influence from WALL-E (which, coincidentally, was the last thing we saw at Bracknell before Camberley Vue opened).  The trailers were, if anything, even worse.  I'd already seen at least two different ones for Puss in Boots, which weren't that bad, but the one shown last night was terrible.  There was one for Happy Feet 2: I don't know how the original won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature - 2006 must have been a REALLY bad year for animated films - and the sequel looks awful.  There was one for Twilight six-and-a-half or whatever number they're up to now (I'm not sure, and I don't care, exactly how many have been released): it took me a few moments to realise what the trailer was for, but once I'd cottoned on I couldn't bring myself to keep looking at the screen.  The risk of catching sight of Robert Pattinson's gormless undead mug again was too horrific.  The only trailer that I liked was the one for Arthur Christmas - it's Aardman (see Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit), and despite having never believed in Santa Claus, I was rather taken with the premise that his gift-delivery routine is actually achieved through an uber-high-tech pseudo-military organisation.

But eventually, the rubbish was out of the way, and they rolled the Spielberg.  I must say it didn't make the best first impression - I thought the silhouette-cartoon opening-credits sequence, although decent enough in its own right, should have been kept until the end, and the film should have just got on with the story up front.  The beginning just felt too slow to me, and the mini-plotline in the credits was a bit of a red herring relative to the main story that followed it.

Said main story, however, was very enjoyable.  Steve Moffat was working on the first draft of the screenplay before being offered a job as head writer of Doctor Who, which shows, as the film had its fair share of wit and eccentricity, while Ben (who knows the comic books much better than I do) says they were pretty much faithful to the source material, albeit combining 2 or 3 of the 23 comic books into one film.  Ben reckoned the ending counted as a cliffhanger, but I would disagree - yes, it leaves the door open for sequels (it was always the plan that they'd make a trilogy, with Spielberg helming the first film and Peter Jackson, of The Lord of the Rings, taking over for the second), but the film is a sufficiently self-contained story that you leave the cinema feeling like you've seen a whole film - unlike, for example, Matrix Reloaded or Pirates of the Caribbean 2.  Which is quite a relief after Moffat's torturous obsession with cliffhangers in this year's series of Doctor Who.

The film's reviews were an interesting mix - mostly positive, but with one or two no-holds-barred savagings which mostly seemed to come from a luddite brigade who have never forgiven Computer-Generated Imagery for existing at all, let alone for being applied to feature films.  Well, I'm not an anti-CGI luddite, and while I did think the motion-captured performances weren't always 100%, they scored a respectable enough 95.  The show was stolen by Andy Serkis (better known for portraying Gollum through a similar mo-cap performance in the Rings trilogy) as Captain Haddock: easily the second-most-important character after the eponymous Tintin, if not the outright leading man in all but name; sober for approximately one minute of screentime; prone to impulsive, misjudged actions, and the source of a good two-thirds of the film's funniest and generally-best moments.

I feel I should mention the big action scene in the late second act which is executed in one, long, insanely complicated shot.  Technically impressive, if nothing else, and interspersed with a fair bit of Haddock.

The score was serviceable, but I didn't leave the cinema humming the theme.  It was definitely John Williams, but not John Williams on top form.  Still - no pop songs in sight (or in sound), which I always see as a good thing in a film.

Overall, I'd probably give it 7/ or 8/10.  See it for Haddock, if nothing else.

- The Colclough

P.S.: photo gallery of some recently-completed paintings coming soon!


  1. I'm afraid I'm one of those people who just can't stand this type of animation. In some ways, I really want to go see it. Stephen Moffat was involved in it!! However, the type of animation just makes me cringe. IMO, either fully animation, drawings and the like, or fully real people. I hate the mixture.

  2. just out of curiosity, which side of the boundary does, say, The Incredibles fall on? animation or mixture?