I first encountered the Tintin comic books in the little library of the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome, the American parish that my family attended throughout the 1969-70 academic year. After Sunday Mass my brother and sisters and I would eagerly stomp up the rectory stairs to the upper floor where the library was located (according to my impressionistic memory). There we would gorge on sugar donuts and check out our weekly bushel of books. Hergé’s lovely images in Explorers on the Moon were blazed into my memory at that time, aided no doubt by the fact that as a five year-old boy I was already afire with moon landings, given that on the black-and-white television in our apartment we had watched Neil Armstrong touch down on the moon that past July.
I still own a tattered copy of Red Rackham’s Treasure, which in time sparked the flames of my own children’s love affair with the Tintin books. Thus it was a real treat last night for us all to begin the Christmas break by going to the opening night of Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. It’s an absolutely cracking film for the whole family. “Unadulterated adventure,” as I heard Spielberg say in one interview. Sheer fun from start to finish.
We whet our appetites for the movie by watching on YouTube some behind-the-scenes footage of Spielberg working with actors Jamie Bell (Tintin) and Andy Serkis (Captain Haddock) using motion-capture, a technique which Spielberg and his team—which included Peter Jackson as an executive producer, if not co-director—have brought to a high art. Here’s a sample—
The motion-capture technique is perfectly suited to bringing the Tintin comics to life, in that it retains Hergé’s ligne claire cartoon line while at the same time making two-dimensional characters three-dimensional. Captain Haddock, for example, is portrayed with his comically exaggerated bulbous nose, familiar from the books, while in other respects he is depicted with breathtaking realism—the limpid nature of the eyes, the blinks, the nose hair! This strange combination of cartoon and realism is very engaging, and makes the film a feast to behold.
Interestingly, the Tintin comics first appeared in a Belgian Catholic newspaper for youth, Le Petite Vingtième, and Hergé himself was a Catholic.