Pop Vulture

An American Tintin

One of the criticisms that came the film's way was that Steven Spielberg hadn't read Tintin properly when he considered adapting it to the big screen. That like most Americans he wasn't very conversant with the hero's European legacy. Fact is that Spielberg had initially responded to Tintin purely on a visual impulse; when studying French in high school he held a French language edition of the comic book series in one hand and a dictionary in the other. The other rue was that an American director making Tintin would do injustice to the character's European legacy, "the prism of post-war Europe" as an article in The Economist put it across.

A special preview of The Adventures of Tintin by Steven Spielberg proved that both these laments might have been a bit premature. For starters, even if the character of Tintin is quintessentially European, European filmmaking itself has neither the financial nor technical prowess to create the sort of gobsmacking spectacle that Spielberg's Tintin boasts of. This is Hollywood at its best. And yet ironically, for all the cash and enterprise that America can buy, the 3D is surprisingly subtle, merely a garnish to the incredible special effects and art direction that seamlessly transport you to Tintin land for 107 minutes. And not for a second are you not in thrall.

While Spielberg does gleefully adhere to his clichés about the Arab world that sometimes tainted his Indiana Jones series, the screenplay takes the effort to humanize Captain Haddock — and as drunk as this idea might seem, it makes for an endearing supporting role. On the other hand, Professor Calculus is sorely missing, but Scotland Yard detectives Thompson and Thomson are double the fun.

It will be a great case study to see how Tintin fares worldwide in the post 9/11 era. For one, the world order itself has shifted where neither Europe nor America, but Asia is in a resurgent, imperialist mode even. A continental hero, hijacked by Hollywood, forced to speak with an English twang (the character was always on the fringe of popularity even in Britain), and peddled to the new global order could well be the subject of a new Tintin series, where pirates are not aboard on ships such as the Unicorn, but in dingy digital studios in Bangkok and Shanghai ripping DVD after DVD of the latest, ahem, Tintin film.

More on Tintin