For reference purposes, watch this (switch video quality to 720p) before reading ahead:

I’ve written a lot here and there about my lack of excitement for The Adventures of Tintin, the much-hyped 3D performance capture CG-animated collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson. Most All of that discussion has been negative due to my inherent hatred of both 3D and CG-animated performance capture movies. Actually, I’ve been bitching about it since the day the project was announced. Literally. To sum up what I’ve said in fragments in other posts; I believe this was an immense waste of time for everybody involved, from Spielberg to Jackson to the actors to composer John Williams, all the way down to the brilliant people at Weta Digital in New Zealand whose computers brought this film life. The plan has always been for Spielberg to direct this first movie, and if it did well enough, Jackson would direct a sequel soon after. I’m sure there are some people out there excited about those prospects, but I am not among them. The movie has actually opened already in several other countries (the UK included), but won’t open in the U.S. until December 21. I know, you can’t wait.

I don’t have to rehash how much I admire Spielberg and Jackson, either. But in case you’re new to this party, Steven Spielberg is the primary reason I love movies and want to be a filmmaker, and I believe what Jackson and his team did in bringing The Lord of the Rings to life so brilliantly and vividly is the single greatest overall achievement in the history of movies. I also love his King Kong remake. Other than that, they’re just a couple of schmucks. To me, the mere thought of these two giants collaborating is something more than a dream come true. So when I learned their big collaboration was to be on a project I had absolutely zero interest in, my emotions quickly went from disappointment to sadness to where I am now, which is somewhere between apathy and rage.

The main issue is I simply don’t like these all-CG performance capture movies, which have been made famous or infamous by Spielberg protégé (and another hero of mine) Robert Zemeckis with The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. None of these were great movies, and this technology, along with the recent obsession with 3D, is part of a disturbing trend of visionary filmmakers (James Cameron, George Lucas, and others) placing the advancement of technology over telling a great story. This makes me most sad because all of these guys are heroes of mine. These fuckers even convinced Martin Scorsese to direct a 3D movie, for fuck’s sake. It’s interesting to note that the pioneer of these movies (Zemeckis) has finally been forced to return to live-action movies after Beowulf and A Christmas Carol failed to perform well enough to justify their enormous costs. In case you’ve forgotten, the last live-action “regular” movie Zemeckis directed was Cast Away, which came out 11 years ago in 2000. He’s been pretty much dead to me ever since, but I’m hoping he rediscovers a passion for working with real humans in front of cameras on real sets. Time will tell.

Peter Jackson was also a pioneer in motion capture/performance capture, when he used the brilliant performances of Andy Serkis (who also has a role in Tintin) to bring Gollum to life in LOTR as well as King Kong. Serkis has since continued his dominance of this field by playing Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes this past summer. But Jackson’s films used this technology to enhance their already wonderful stories. They weren’t the primary reason you bought a ticket to the movie. Zemeckis’ movies always seemed to place exhalting, “Look at what our computers can do!” over telling a good story. In the case of Christmas Carol, he managed to take a classic story and make it boring, just so he could show off some stupid 3D action sequences.

At this point, I think Serkis wears mo-cap suits like the rest of us wear jeans.

Spielberg was late to this technological party, but he’s now had his chance to try his hand at the performance capture thing. He says he loved it, blah blah blah, but whether or not he does it again will likely rest solely on the box office performance of Tintin. This is also Spielberg’s first foray into 3D, but you know me…I couldn’t give a fuck about that. I’ll be seeing the movie, and in digital projection, but it will be a 2D screening for me. Not even Spielberg is gonna get me off my 2011 3D boycott. Again, I go to the movies to see great stories, not to experience a 3D “ride”. If I want to go on a ride, there’s a Six Flags in Georgia I can visit.

All of the aforementioned apprehension aside, again I’m still going to see the movie. This is Spielberg’s first directorial effort since 2008. He’s executive produced 946 movies and TV shows since then, but not directed anything. 2008 was also the last time we got a new score from John Williams, so I’m interested to see what he’s come up with here (you can get a taste of his new music in this trailer). I like the cast they put together (Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, Nick Frost), even though it appears that Jamie Bell was horribly miscast as Tintin. It looks like this character is supposed to be about 15. Bell is 25, and has a pretty deep voice. The voice and the character I’m looking at in this trailer don’t seem to match up, which is distracting. Also noteworthy is the fact that the script for the film was collaboration between Edgar Wright, Steven Moffat and Joe Cornish, 3 British guys who have all been involved with great projects recently. So maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that this trailer is only showing off a sizzle reel of action scenes, and that the script is worthy of the filmmakers involved. And of course, Peter Jackson’s best guys at Weta were involved in the animation.

Perhaps most of all, I’m interested to see what a master visualist like Spielberg does with computer animation (from the trailer, the visual gags and the Indiana Jones-style visual aesthetic of the film are certainly cool to look at), but again, I wish I got to see him do it with a different story. I just couldn’t be less interested in something called The Adventures of Tintin. Tintin is a goofy character name, and I’m being polite when I call it goofy. It sounds like something you’d name your pet hamster as a kid. That is, if your pet hamster was born with 3 legs and was paralyzed below the neck. And the only way it could move was if you put him in a little tin can and he used his overdeveloped neck muscles to roll around to different parts of its cage. THEN I could see calling something Tintin. “Oh look, little Tintin’s rolling over to get some water. How cute!” I know it’s based on a classic series of comic books (by this Belgian dude Hergé), but I have zero personal history with the character, and I don’t think I’d care about this even if I were 10 right now. And I don’t think 10 year olds today are gonna care about it in movie form, either. That’s just a hunch, but I’d bet good money with anybody that my hunch bears out. At least here in the U.S. I think it’ll do better overseas, but if it grosses more than $100 million here, I’ll be shocked. And yeah, $100 million is a lot of money for most movies, but not for a movie with a budget that’s in the vicinity of $150 million, maybe $250 million with worldwide advertising taken into account. To that end, I also don’t know who the target audience is for this film. Is it kids? Is it nostalgia for adults who grew up with the character? I have no clue.

Oh yeah, in the middle of the trailer, we get this title card:


Note that isn’t “two OF the…”, but the declarative “THE two greatest stroytellers…”

I fucking hate self-congratulatory title cards. Fucking hate them. And there have been some bad ones over the years. I’ve seen “From the visionary director of…”, “From the master of horror…”, shit like that. I couldn’t even fathom allowing someone to put something that arrogant on advertising for any film I worked on. In this instance, I don’t imagine this was Spielberg or Jackson’s idea, but they both sure as hell saw this trailer with that card on it, and didn’t feel the need to have it removed. The big problem in this instance is whose opinion is this? Cite a source. Who is this trailer to tell me definitively who the two greatest storytellers of “our time” are? And what timeframe are you using to define “our time”? Is it all storytellers, including musicians, novelists, poets, journalists, photographers, etc.? Or just filmmakers? These are the many reasons that title card is stupid. If you said “two OF the greatest storytellers of our time”, it would be virtually undeniable. But studios don’t get to just declare stuff like this as a marketing ploy, cuz people like me are paying attention to this crap. You especially don’t get to be called the two greatest storytellers of our time when your most recent directorial efforts were Indiana Jones and the Holy Fuck It Was Terrible and The Lovely Bones. Just sayin.

The sad fact is Spielberg hasn’t made a classic Spielberg Movie (a gargantuan hit that appeals to mass audiences that’s also viewed as a classic) since Jurassic Park, 18 years ago in 1993. As such, why should anyone believe the studio hype that Tintin is the next great and magical film from either of these guys? This isn’t gonna be Indiana Jones. This isn’t gonna be Lord of the Rings. That’s not the pessimist in me, that’s just fact. Unless they’re hiding all the good stuff, which would be a first in modern movie marketing. Of course, Spielberg has made several great movies since then (Amistad, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, Munich), but all of them were primarily for adult audiences. He’s also had several other hits (The Lost World, War of the Worlds, gulp…Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Oh My God It Was So Terrible), but none of those have withstood the test of time. And believe me, it pains me to say all of this. Steven Spielberg has been the single most influential person in my life other than my mother. But I’m not gonna kid myself, and I’m not blindly loyal. When my heroes fuck up, I’m willing to say so.

I’ve watched this trailer 3 times through and I still can’t even tell you what the hell the story is. All I get out of it is everybody in the movie is after something, and there’s a sinister bad guy involved. Not exactly enough to draw me in. I just see a bunch of animated stunts. The movie used to carry the utterly awful subtitle The Secret of the Unicorn. I think I’d rather watch a 24-hour Thomas the Tank Engine marathon with my eyes peeled open Clockwork Orange-style than a movie called The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. But that’s me.

I know I’m being presumptuous, but I’m also going off all the evidence at hand when I say that in the end, this will be a massive waste of time for everyone involved, but a fun experiment for Jackson & Spielberg. Peter Jackson said this week that once he finishes The Hobbit, he’d like to do the Tintin sequel next, but I’m hoping this first one is enough of a failure that they won’t give Jackson the money to make that possible. And again, it pains me to say that. I don’t want to root against two of my heroes, but CG-animated performance capture MUST DIE. I can at least take solace in the fact that even if the first Tintin movie is successful enough to get a sequel greenlit, Jackson won’t be finished with The Hobbit until the beginning of 2014, so it would be 2015 before I’m forced to endure trailers for another one. That’s my half full glass.

Or I could absolutely love this first Tintin movie and be excited for a sequel. However, at this point I’m putting the chances of that happening at about 5%. And I’m hoping the 95% wins out for the greater good of cinema going forward. Damn, looks like that glass is half empty after all. Actually, it’s mostly empty. And the few drops inside it are cyanide.

Fuck it, I will end on a positive note, dammit. No matter what happens with Tintin, Spielberg & Jackson have heard my pleas. Spielberg has another movie opening just 4 days later this Christmas Day (which has to be unprecedented) in War Horse [NEW TRAILER!], and each of them have one of my top 3 most anticipated movies of 2012, with Spielberg finally bringing his sure-to-be-incredible Abraham Lincoln biopic to the screen (with Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln, holy shit that’s awesome), and Jackson returning to Middle Earth for the first part of The Hobbit. Both will hit in December, 2012, and their combined might should erase any memory of Tintin from my puny brain.

We’ll see if the film backs up Mr. Spielberg’s sentiments at the end of this clip.


  1. I think you’re waaaaaaaaay too attached to this fear of motion capture technology. Do I agree that it’s a bit silly? Sure. Do I agree that there hasn’t been a single good film to be based entirely around it? Sure. But dude. Seriously. Dude. EVERYTHING ELSE about this film screams “AWESOME” from a mountaintop.

    Speaking of 3D, I saw “Hugo” the other day, and while a little slow narratively, I was legitimately impressed with the 3D work. If it’s still in theaters come January 1, 2012, I suggest you give it a try.


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