The trades rave The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Variety:
…Clearly rejuvenated by his collaboration with producer Peter Jackson, and blessed with a smart script and the best craftsmanship money can buy, Spielberg has fashioned a whiz-bang thrill ride that’s largely faithful to the wholesome spirit of his source but still appealing to younger, Tintin-challenged auds. Pic should do thundering typhoon biz globally, but will whirl especially fast in Europe.
…Early buzz on fan sites indicated that expectations weren’t high for Spielberg’s take on the material, given the arguably overused gimmicks of 3D and motion-capture. Working hand-in-hand with Jackson, however, the director and his team have deployed both technologies with subtle finesse throughout, exploiting 3D’s potential just enough to make the action scenes that much more effective without overdoing it; likewise, the motion-capture performances have been achieved with such exactitude they look effortless, to the point where the characters, with their exaggerated features, almost resemble flesh-and-blood thesps wearing prosthetic makeup.
Indeed, in the early going auds might wonder why the filmmakers bothered with motion-capture at all. But the choice starts to make sense once Snowy, Tintin’s faithful white terrier, performs antics not even the best-trained pooch could perform and the sets, stunts and action sequences become ever more lavish.
…Aside from a crack about a shepherd said to have shown too much enthusiasm for animal husbandry, the humor throughout is resolutely PG-friendly, lacking in the knowing irony and snarky, anachronistic wisecracks that have become such predictable fixtures of other recent blockbusters and reboots. Spielberg largely honors the innocent, gung-ho tone of the original stories, with their air of boyish derring-do (femme characters barely feature at all here), sensibly shunning the racist and anti-Semitic elements that just won’t wash with contempo auds. Result is retro without being stodgy or antiquated; Tintin himself, for instance, has a more mischievous glint in his eye than the wide-eyed naif of the strips, which makes him feel more modern, if curiously unplaceable in terms of age…
Toon geeks are likely to be among “Tintin’s” biggest fans, so consistently stylish and richly detailed is its design work. With immense sensitivity, the animators have translated Herge’s spare, elegant drawings into a multi-dimensional world that seems realistic (especially in its use of chiaroscuro lighting, which plays wonderfully with sunlight and shadows throughout) yet still charmingly stylized and cartoony. Perhaps the film’s sweetest joke comes at the very beginning, when a street artist, modeled on the real Herge, does a quick-sketch portrait of Tintin that looks exactly like one of the original strips.
Serving up a good ol’ fashioned adventure flick that harkens back to the filmmaker’s action-packed, tongue-in-cheek swashbucklers of the 1980s, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a visually dazzling adaptation of the legendary – at least outside the US – comic book series by Belgian artist Herge.
…It’s precisely the old-school exploits of the Jones films that the director and screenwriters Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) have channeled here, transforming two of the 23 Tintin comics into a saga filled with captivating CGI action and clever sight gags, while maintaining a compact narrative that never takes itself too seriously. Such additions should help the film receive a warm welcoming across the Atlantic, although the franchise’s overseas renown more or less guarantees that international grosses will exceed domestic ones.
…Tintin crosses paths with the film’s most colorful character, the scotch-guzzling, bad-mouthed – at least for an 8-year-old living in the 1940s –Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). Offering up plenty of comic relief in comparison to Tintin’s straight-edged ways (one mark of Herge’s series is how little personality Tintin seems to have compared with everyone else), Haddock accompanies him throughout some of the movie’s more thrilling and humorous set-pieces, including a terrifically rendered flight across the ocean where the sailor manages to fuel an airplane with his own whisky-infused breath.
That sequence, as well as a dazzling flashback scene where past and present are intermingled with plenty of wit and digital splendor (most notably in an image of The Unicorn emerging from the sea and crashing, dreamlike, onto a row of sand dunes), showcase Spielberg’s talent for creating action that is less about bullets and bombs than in keeping things visually alive, introducing dozens of ideas in only a few shots. This is what makes Tintin an altogether more successful mocap experience than earlier efforts like The Polar Express, and the director (who operated the camera and is credited as “lighting consultant”) approaches the medium in a realistic way that’s also far from the epic worlds of Avatar, setting things in a past of lifelike artifacts and locations.