Thundering Typhoons!

by Michael Potemra


I just saw The Adventures of Tintin (yes, everything is possible in NYC, even 12:45 a.m. screenings of a children’s film) and strongly recommend it. I’ve been a huge fan of the Tintin oeuvre — shall we call them graphic novels? they are not dark and pretentious, as so many graphic novels are, but they are a little too beautiful to be called comic books — since I was nine or ten, and I am gratified that Steven Spielberg has made a film version that captures the spirit of the original. (In the print NR, film critic — and my fellow Tintin aficionado — Ross Douthat reaches the same general judgment.) The movie works as an adventure story, but more importantly it shares the sense of humor that is so central to the charm of the original.

The one area in which the film falls short of the books is the colors. Perhaps a feature film rendered entirely in the saturated palette of Hergé’s originals would have been exhausting for viewers? In any case, go from the film to the books and you will see a great difference in brightness. This is especially the case with the 3-D version, which is the one I saw. The dulling of color is still an important problem with the 3-D process, which needs work. On the other hand, some of the 3-D effects in the film are quite marvelous, and it would be a shame to lose them by opting for the 2-D version. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Whichever version you take the youngsters to see, there is a high probability that they will be curious about the books — and thereafter, confronted with Hergé’s Technicolor, they’ll be hooked for life. Among the many incidental benefits of this will be that they will curse more creatively than others in their age cohort. Tintin’s friend, Captain Haddock, has a colorful vocabulary (“blistering barnacles” being probably his most famous catch phrase) and a legendarily impressive repertoire of insults (he deploys a few choice examples in the film, but you can find a long list of them here). When other kids are shouting the usual four-letter words at each other, yours can be the first ones on the block to accuse others of being “bashi-bazouks! abecedarians! trogolodytes!” or — the worst one of all, from the film — “politicians!”

In short, this is a film that’s great fun, and appropriate for the whole family.

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