The only problem with The Adventures of Tintin is that it runs a bit too long, straining to fill out 105 minutes with a story that’s fundamentally designed — like any good serial — to wrap up in closer to an hour. The Indiana Jones movies justified their running time by weaving in a little romance, but Tintin is no Harrison Ford: In print and pixels alike, his cheeks have never seen a razor. The world of Hergé is fundamentally sexless: a never-never land of boyhood whose only recurring female inhabitant is the opera diva Bianca Castafiore, a frightening caricature of grown-up womanhood. She puts in a cameo appearance in this movie, shattering bulletproof glass with her high notes.
It’s to Spielberg’s credit that he doesn’t try to invent a love interest for Tintin or a romance for Haddock. The characters are simply not designed for those sorts of complications. But this leaves the movie with nothing to do but pile on the chase scenes and set pieces past the point of diminishing returns. By the time we reach the grand finale, the script’s otherwise-impressive sense of restraint has given way to a typical blockbuster showdown, in which Haddock and Sakharine slug it out with giant dockyard cranes, like a 1940s version of Transformers.
It’s an ending that loses touch with the fact that the pleasures of the Tintin books are fundamentally low-tech: the cosh to the head, the gun poked in the ribs, the car wheeling around the corner, and the sudden “Eureka!” moment over a code or book or map. Hergé’s eager-beaver reporter doesn’t have a superhero’s powers, and he doesn’t have Indiana Jones’s facility with a whip. All he has is brains, gumption, and the willingness to take a punch (or a dose of chloroform) in the service of his story. The reader doesn’t expect him to save the world or leap tall buildings or trade blows with a supervillain. We just expect him to keep on coming, until he finally gets his man.