The Adventures of Tintin on Blu-ray
The result is a photo realistic comic book adventure that's so realistic we kept forgetting it was all CGI.
What reminds you that it's a high tech cartoon is the faces of the characters, which are definitely comic book – inspired by Belgian creator Herge's books, of course – which, while definitely not human in their distorted look – still look perfectly believable thanks to the work by the great folk at Jackson's Weta digital.
It really is quite amazing and it seems more impressive than Avatar's similar look because it's set on Earth and that gives us a familiar background as opposed to Cameron's sci-fi landscape.
Tintin is a ripping yarn, kind of an Indiana Jones-type adventure in which the title character is a young journalist who apparently keeps finding himself caught up in outrageous adventures.
In this case, Tintin (played, via voice and performance capture, by Jamie Bell) is minding his own business when he buys a model ship that catches his fancy. There's a good bit of humor here as the street vendor who sells him the model ship lets it go for a song then, almost immediately, a mysterious guy named Sakharine (Daniel Craig) shows up and offers the moon for it.
Tintin doesn't want to sell the Unicorn, however, and learns that it's one of at least two models of a real (well, real to the Tintin universe) ship that had been led by Sir Francis Haddock (how's that for a fishy name?) that went to Davey Jones' Locker centuries before – taking, naturally, a load of treasure with it.
Only a true Haddock can uncover the secrets of the lost treasure of the Unicorn, legend has it, so Tintin needs to find such a dude while fending off the evil (despite his sweet-sounding name) Sakharine, who will stop at nothing to get the model and the secret it represents.
What follows is a roller coaster ride of an adventure that takes us back in time to the age of the real Unicorn and around the globe from arid desert to foamy seas, with a cast of lifelike cartoon characters that bring Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish's script to life and make this 106 minute flick whiz by.
Supporting cast includes bumbling Interpol agents Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who provide the comedy relief in this already-light feature) and of course the real surviving Haddock (Andy Serkis). Alas, the latest Captain Haddock is a lush who has forgotten the old Haddock tales, so Tintin has to dry him out enough so he can access the secrets, all while racing across the globe to beat Sakharine to the treasure.
It's a lot of fun and if you're a fan of movie tech, a must see indeed.
The Blu-ray is also top notch entertainment. It's available in 2D or 3D. We chose the 2D version for this review (which also comes with a DVD and digital copy) and the audio and video are spectacular, true reference stuff. The 1080p picture (at 2.35:1) makes the stunning technological achievement even more enjoyable, as we see clearly cartoon-style faces, but with photo realistic hair and clothing. The settings are done so well we kept wondering if it was performances captured and inserted into real locations – until we watched the extras that showed how it was all done. It's fantastic!
Detail is really crisp, colors are rich and deep, and the sense of depth from the 2D 1080p picture is wonderful. This is definitely reference-quality stuff.
Ditto for the audio, which is presented in a 7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio track, though we listened to it on a 5.1 system. A true winner, it's clear, clean and very dynamic, with clear dialogue, delicious low frequency effects (a must for an adventure movie such as this), excellent surround and channel separation and localization.
Extras include some 90 plus minutes of meat, 11 mini-documentaries that range from an homage to Tintin, and a wide variety of looks into various aspects of the production, from the look to the performance capture, to the sound, John Williams' typically exquisite score, etc. They're well worth your time.
Tintin may not be the new Casablanca, but it doesn't claim to be. What it is is an imaginative romp in the home theater, with simply amazing looks and sounds, and that makes it well worth a viewing – or even several, since there's so much going on in this movie that it will undoubtedly seem even more marvelous with subsequent views.
The Adventures of Tintin, from Paramount Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.