Monday, November 14, 2011


If you are anything like me, you read Tintin comics in your school/neighbourhood library and have hazy but extremely fond memories of the series.  You were probably thrilled to hear that a beloved bit of your childhood was being adapted to the big screen, with the formidable Peter Jackson-Steven Spielberg duo at the helm. Peter Jackson, the man who managed to silence one of the most vociferous (and astute) fan bases with his remarkable adaptation of the greatest book ever written, and Spielberg, who is practically an institution.  If you are anything like me, do not make the mistake of watching the The Adventures of Tintin with a rabid fanboy.
For the 3 people on the planet who have not heard of this comic book series, “The Adventures of Tintin” is about an alien explorer from the planet Zargon X, come to study humanity. He disguises himself as a dog, Snowy, and gallivants about the place with his sidekick, Tintin. He solves many mysteries and catches many bad guys, occasionally with Tintin’s help. The 2011 film adaptation combines some plot points from 3 comics, and is otherwise a completely new story (the blackest of sins, I was told).
I think it’s time we struck up a dirge for 3D films. Sure, there were some spectacular animated films that made glorious use of the 3D, but they seem to have regressed to that gimmicky, pre-Avatar era. Apart from 2 or 3 scenes (a superb sea battle and Tintin dodging traffic on a busy street come to mind), I watched the entire thing without glasses. Half the exciting murders and skulduggery in the Tintin universe happen at night, and once you have the glasses on, you can’t see a damn thing.  I must also mention that Captain Haddock’s animation and motion capture was awful. No animated character has looked as creepy, since the dead-eyed zombies ofThe Polar Express (2004). The animation was otherwise top class and even incredibly lifelike in parts: qualities that one has now come to expect from Weta Digital.

Now, onto the meat of the matter: how was the film?  Eminently watchable. This was not a lets-just-render-one-book-for-the-screen-and-smirk-all-the-way-to-the bank movie. The film-makers had a loftier goal: to stay true to the spirit of the series, but with a new plot. Suspense, adventure, Thomson/Thompson pratfalls and little clues for the viewer make for a most enjoyable film. They had lots of references to the comics without ever going overboard.  One particularly enjoyable moment was when Tintin gets his caricature drawn by a street artist and the audience collectively went, “Heh. Good one”.  Sure, some of the humour was a bit over the top (Haddock fuelling a plane with his whisky breath, or buildings merrily sailing away on a flood), but this sort of slapstick humour was expected. I mean, have you read a Tintin comic lately?
Fanboys on the other hand, there’s simply no pleasing them. This is known. If you do succeed in gaining their approval, rest assured that nobody else will watch that film because it will be mired in trivia and easter eggs. They will carry on about how the masthead of the Unicorn was three inches off, or how the wrong sort of ivy was growing on Marlinspike Hall. They forget that the magic of Tintin does not lie in its self-referential in-jokes or Sakharine’s backstory; it was the good, old-fashioned, almost fantastic tales of adventure and mystery that first made you fall in love with the series. It was like a travelogue for children, who then went and sailed the seas in their imaginary ships and bathed their bedroom floors in the blood of countless mad scientists and oil sheikhs. Fanboys be damned, this film lived up to its promise.
Although, I’ll give them this much: I wouldn’t have caught half the easter eggs if it hadn’t been for excited whispers of “That’s from Blue Lotus!” and “That vase in the corner is from Something of the something else” emanating from the next seat. Oddly endearing, even if you are resisting the urge to beat them with a bag of rotten oranges.
Bait the Fanboy
You will need:
1 bottle of tequila
1-2 fanboys (must be passionate about same TV show/cartoon/comic)
1 Comfortable armchair/couch
How to play:
1. Find 1 or 2 fanboys and engage them in conversation. Within 5 minutes they will have mentioned their comic/cartoon/TV show/movie of interest.
2. Tell him/her how much you love their subject of interest. This is to lull them into a false sense of security.
3. When they’re deep into a monologue about the cultural/artistic/social significance of pg. 15 of the third volume/season, interrupt them and say, “Yeah, and I really loved the movie adaptation. It was spot on!”
4. Sit back, and let them start talking. Every time they use the following words/phrases, drink 1 shot: “outrage”, “shallow”, “disregards established canon”, “misunderstood”, “did not stay true to the spirit”, “director of the film should be drawn and quartered”. Drink two shots for every time they use the word “travesty”.
5.  Enjoy the party and remember to keep yourself well hydrated!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Lekha, why must rabid fanboys demand any less adherence than astute fan bases of the greatest book ever written? As I see it, Tintin sucked because the movie showed no deference to the comic. That may be another debate, but as a LOTR puritan yourself, surely you will agree Tintin fans are entitled to the same!

  3. Adherence is one thing and going overboard trying to simply match the comic book strip for strip is a whole different ball game. I thought the Tintin film stayed completely true to the spirit of the books-- I had a ball watching it! Sure, Sakharine's real motives may have enraged fans because that's not how it happened in the books, but why should that be an issue? They never claimed they were remaking one comic for the screen.

    As an LOTR fan, I loved the movies and will defend them strenuously. And they changed around a LOT of stuff from the books: the absence of Tom Bombadil, Faramir succumbing to the power of the Ring to name a few but I can see that these were necessary changes because film and books are very different media.

  4. You know the old joke - A cow once ate a roll of film and said, "The book was better."

  5. Can't say I've heard it before, but now I plan to deliberately create opportunities to use it.