Not since "1941" -- the movie, not the year -- has Steven Spielberg created a movie that's so visually impressive but a disappointment in terms of story and performance as "The Adventures of Tintin." While there are times when the movie rivals his adventurous efforts in "Indiana Jones," the production keeps getting knocked off its feet by a story that is overly complex and the slight creepiness of the motion-capture animation process used to film the actors.
For those of you not familiar with the works of Hergé, Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a spunky Belgian reporter who not only gets his story but often solves the crimes. He's Jimmy Olsen without Superman.
The latest adventure for Tintin and his sidekick pooch Snowy has him tracking down model ships that hold the clue to a vast fortune. The clues are complicated enough to make Indiana Jones scratch his head.
Writers Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish shouldn't have penned a Tintin tale that requires the skills of an archaeologist, historian, astronomer and architect to follow.
The complexity of the clues does allow for spectacular adventures, including an escape on the high seas and a roller-coaster ride through an Arabian city.
Spielberg has always brought big stunts to his movies. The elaborate nature of the city stunt would likely have been cost prohibitive if the film had been shot as a live-action movie.
Big stunts are not the only reason the director opted for the motion capture-animation format. Spielberg wanted to retain some of Tintin's original animated look, which is accomplished by filming the actors and then transforming their performance into the animated characters.
The film has the bright and bold look of the original work by Hergé, but the problem with this kind of animation is that no matter how good the world looks, there is a deadness in the eyes of the characters that drains the life out of the film.
The movie would have been better served by the hybrid filmmaking style used in movies like "The Immortals" and "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." In that style, actors perform their scenes in front of a green screen so that elaborate backgrounds can be added later.
As is, "The Adventures of Tintin" is good but not great.
Much of the action is staged beautifully, but it also feels like retreads of past Spielberg work. Similarly, the heroic music by the always dependable John Williams sounds like leftovers from his "Indiana Jones" work. "Tintin" also is another example of 3-D technology that doesn't add anything.
The movie is fun and colorful, but it doesn't have that creative explosion needed to bring Tintin to life.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.