The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn


It’s Indiana Jones but, you know, for kids

Before he died in 1983, Tintin creator Hergé pegged Steven Spielberg as the director worthiest of adapting his work.

You can see how the Belgian writer/artist would’ve pictured it: the cliffhanging kicks of Indiana Jones sweetened with the winsome wonder of Close Encounters/E.T. He probably didn’t hope for a replay of 1941’s knockabout chaos.

No, Spielberg’s latest isn’t down there with his biggest bomb. But there are times when its manic ghost haunts his animated epic.

Hergé’s original comic books tend to alternate wodges of exposition with fits of action.

Spielberg’s version heavily favours the latter, which sounds promising in theory – who needs another blockbuster that’s two-thirds characters explaining stuff to one another? – but in practice means a movie that doesn’t quite know when to ease off the pedal.

It’s a mash-up of three ’40s Tintin stories (The Secret Of The Unicorn, The Crab With The Golden Claws, Red Rackham’s Treasure) that finds the eponymous man-boy reporter (Jamie Bell in breathless boy-scout mode) crossing sand, sea and city in pursuit of treasure linked to the ancestry of sozzled sea-dog Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis).

Chase follows kidnapping follows fist-fight follows chase – a daisy-chain of incident urged on by John Williams’ booming brass and trembling violins. It’s very busy and yes, very Indy – yet somehow short on the thrill of danger Dr Jones always carried in his satchel.

Perhaps it’s the distraction of the performance-capture visuals; not only their uncanny-valley-ness (sadly, Tintin himself is the most shark-eyed) but the lack of a greatly compelling reason why this couldn’t have been live action. With one huge exception: an up, down and all-around chase sequence executed in one impossible, continuous shot that brings the excitement to a dizzy peak.

And while there’s no strong emotional hook to hang the pile-driving narrative on, Bell at least dilutes some of the prim pedantry of his ink-and-watercolour counterpart.

As ever, mo-cap maven Serkis makes his presence felt through the pixels, and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost sneak a few laughs as moustachioed bumblers Thompson and Thomson.

Daniel Craig sneers and snarls as urbane baddie Sakharine, yet the character comes across more as a vaguely irate geography teacher than a deadly rogue.

Still, if there’s an absence of menace there’s an abundance of cute, in the form of Tintin’s loyal terrier pal Snowy, who’s pick-up-and-hug loveable and claims the best background gags. He also bags the final shot of the final scene – a so-so set-up for a sequel you hope will fix its glassy eye on soul as well as spectacle.


Like the 3D, an adventure that’s serviceable but doesn’t reach out and grab you as often as you’d expect. Frenetic to a fault, it’ll divert the under-10s; older viewers may feel there’s not enough lift in the quiff.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • FBJWalters

      Oct 13th 2011, 18:13

      Because, you know, Total Film wasn't bound to give it 3 stars as per usual

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    • devilsfoxes

      Oct 13th 2011, 20:33

      this seems a fair review

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    • piffle

      Oct 13th 2011, 21:40

      The curse of the TF 3 star review does seem strong. That being said, I'll judge after I've seen it - this one has average written all over it despite the pedigree.

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    • moviegeek2000

      Oct 13th 2011, 23:14


      I liked it a lot more than TF did. It looked beautiful and had some impeccable pace.

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    • badger86

      Oct 14th 2011, 3:02

      what is it with all this 'oh the usual 3 star review' b******t? to be fair to TF the vast majority of films are bad to average (1-2 stars) and the rest are good but not great (3 stars) and very occasionally something comes along that is great or perhaps a future classic (4-5 stars). A 3 star review is not a cop out, it's simply what a lot of films are, decent but nothing to write home about. Anyway, TinTin i really never expected a whole lot from it, it's Spielberg after all. Don't get me wrong the guy is responsible for some of the best entertainment ever made but he is well past his prime and hasn't delivered anything spectacular in quite some time. Is it not time to accept that there are far better film makers out there? People seem to cling on to his past glories but it's really time to move on. TinTin always looked good, but thats about it. Oh and 'War horse' just seems like saccharine Oscar bait.

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    • Gustavo

      Oct 14th 2011, 3:17

      Spielberg being past his prime is just your opinion. An assessment with which I disagree. In the last decade, he released some of his most mature and challenging work (A.I., Minority Report, Munich) and, for most of the time, he kept churning out big box-office hits (Catch Me If You Can, War of the Worlds, even the often-maligned Indiana 4). Also, the subject matter here is not War Horse, so I don't get the need to slam that upcoming film.

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    • badger86

      Oct 14th 2011, 3:39

      Gustavo (breaking bad?) indeed, it is my opinion and it's nice to see a well thought out and reasoned counter argument, I'll give you A.I, it's a classic fairytale cloaked in sci-fi grandeur. Munich i found a bit tedious tbh. As far as war horse goes i accept it was a little off topic but within the context of my Spielberg comments i feel it was justified, but it is obvious that it's tailored for the awards season isn't it?

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    • badger86

      Oct 14th 2011, 3:42

      Oh and indy 4, i liked it more than most, it wasn't the disaster many made it out to be but still it was just a 3star ride.

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    • badger86

      Oct 14th 2011, 3:53

      And i now feel the need to point out that i was in no way saying that i think Spielberg is s**t or anything, as i say the guy has made some stunning movies i just feel his best work is behind him.

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    • BobbyTwoTimes

      Oct 14th 2011, 10:24

      Badger/Gustavo - I see both your points about Spielberg and agree. He has tried dabbling with many different genres in the past decade which is fine, but you can't deny that all the above films you guys have mentioned are 3/4 star films. The point Badger is making is that he hasn't really made a 5-star classic since my opinion Saving Private Ryan in '98 - but most a lot of people might say Schindlers List/Jurassic Park in '93. He's still one of the finest Directors of our generation but i feel he might just have lost his golden touch a bit. Indy 4 showed what a very different director he was back when he did Raiders. There are many directors - Coppola, Lucas, De Palma - that have faded away long before Spielberg has so it's too his credit that he can still churn out 3/4 star films. We can all just keep hoping for that next Jaws/E.T/Raiders to come along though....

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    • Siban1982

      Oct 14th 2011, 11:52

      I want to see it but I'm not surprised by the score (and that's not because Total Film apparently gives 3 stars to almost every film like some nerds are saying). I'm not surprised because other than Super 8, many of the projects Spielberg has been involved with recently have been a bit forgettable. I mean as director, it's been a while since we saw anything resembling his older work. Seems as though he's kind of gotten a bit too use to it all and got a bit lazy with his effort. No idea what to think of the slightly sickening War Horse which just seems a little typical and up its own bum but I may be wrong. Think Peter Jackson would've been better off at the helm.

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    • Carne

      Oct 14th 2011, 23:03


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    • Carne

      Oct 14th 2011, 23:06

      Whoops, accidentally pressed enter. Anyways, I just want to comment on something; So, TF, or more specificly; Matthew Leyland aks; why couldn't this have been live action? Really, are you serious? By being a 3D movie it holds on to Herge's style and the characters can stay the same as in the comics. Had this been live action a lot of that would have been lost, and it'd just end up looking really ridiculous.

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    • moviemind91

      Oct 19th 2011, 22:20

      I'm a huge fan of Tintin and what I've seen of this movie makes me feel Spielberg is going to impress loyal fans of Herge's classic comic book series. I think that if you're not a fan of Tintin then you won't enjoy this film as much, it'll just be an ordinary film to you. It has 83% on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment so that's a good sign.

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    • davidleach2000

      Oct 25th 2011, 14:27


      Yet another TF 3 star review, it seems to have given several four star films just three this year and Tintin is no 3 star that for sure! From the great credits to the wonderful opening homage to Herge this is a terrific Tinitin film. it looks superb and I think with Speilberg at the helm is perhaps the finest mocap movie we've yet to see. I adored this and if you're a Tintin fan I think you will too. My only quibble is it ends very abruptly. Can't wait to see this again, although might skip the 3D next time. It worked well but I want to see it nice and bright.

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    • aragorn01

      Oct 27th 2011, 6:17

      oh, bummer....i hope i'd disagree with this review once i saw the movie, cuz, AS A LONGTIME Tintin fan, i REALLY want this movie to be AWESOME...cuz i want sequels. but, yeah...when i heard that they're gonna use the cg style of beowulf and polar express, i was really worried...i still am, especially after reading this review.

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    • aragorn01

      Oct 27th 2011, 6:31

      i have to agree with siban'82...if spielberg as someone who's NOT that familiar with Tintin and his world, why da heck did he helm this movie. he should've opted to wear the producer's hat and let his younger self, Peter Jackson (who's also a HUGE tintin fan) take the steering wheel on this one. it would've been a much smarter move.

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    • BiDDY

      Nov 1st 2011, 0:48


      Thought was Awesome, Total Film need to look in to hiring new film reviewers.......3 stars my a**e!!!!

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    • FBSBuntinx

      Nov 9th 2011, 21:49


      Thank you Mister Spielberg for this wonderful and respectful adaption from Kuifje (Tintin). It's the best adventurefilm from the last years. It looks marvellous. Spielberg proofs again he's the absolute numero uno in the filmworld. For all who don't know Tintin (Kuifje), take to chance to meet him and Bobby his dog :) You'll have an fantastic time.

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