WRITTEN and drawn by Belgian artist Georges Remi under the pen name Herge, Tintin first sprang to life on the page in 1929 in the gung-ho adventure Tintin In The Land Of The Soviets.
The plucky reporter with the distinctive ginger quiff has travelled the world and even to the moon, uncovering dastardly deeds with intrepid pooch Snowy by his side.
Now, thanks to Oscar-winning film-makers Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, the iconic character enters the 21st century using state-of-the-art motion capture, which translates actors’ movements into the performances of incredibly detailed digital characters.
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn is the opening salvo of a proposed trilogy, amalgamating the plots of The Crab With The Golden Claws, The Secret Of The Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure.
Spielberg directs the first film and it’s a breathlessly-entertaining romp, littered with eye-popping action set pieces that would simply be unthinkable – not to mention astronomically expensive – as live action.
A dizzying motorcycle chase through the winding alleys of a Moroccan marketplace is accomplished in a single take and Captain Haddock’s penchant for booze provides the hilarious spark for an explosive bi-plane flight.
A terrific animated opening reminiscent of Catch Me If You Can introduces us to reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell), who buys a model ship and is plunged into a centuries-old mystery involving Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig).
Ivan asks Tintin to name his price for the boat, but the reporter refuses to sell, sensing the wooden vessel is far more valuable than it first appears.
Sure enough, a cryptic conundrum lies within, revealing that “only a true Haddock will discover the secret of The Unicorn.”
Assisted by trusty dog Snowy, Tintin searches for more clues, meeting booze-sodden Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), whose family history holds the key to the mystery of a cursed shipwreck.
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn is a hoot, and the script co-written by Peter Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish delivers some big laughs such as when Captain Haddock reveals that one of his crew has no eyelids.
“Aye, it was a card game to remember!” growls the salty sea dog.
However, all of Spielberg’s directorial brio and the gorgeous visuals cannot distract from the lack of characterisation.
The film relies entirely on nostalgia, providing no back story about Tintin or any of his friends and foes, other than what is pertinent to the mystery of The Unicorn.
Like most thrill rides, we’re giddy during the film, caught up in the action and derring-do, but once the film ends, there’s that nagging feeling that something is amiss: heart and soul.
Perhaps Tintin will unearth both in the second film, pencilled for release in 2013 with Jackson at the helm.