The Adventures of Tintin: Motion-Capture Animation That Miraculously Skirts the Uncanny Valley
Motion-capture animation undeniably looks creepy. So the first few minutes of Tintin are uncomfortable, as you acclimate to these rubbery-yet-robotic humanoids that faintly resemble the characters in Hergé's beloved kids' adventure comics. But then the action starts in, and suddenly you're having too much fun to pay attention to any underlying creepiness. And then some terrific performances by mo-cap stalwarts like the always-excellent Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock manage to pierce the layers of digital latex to imbue those dead eyes with a surprising amount of humanity.
Director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson smartly keep the adaptation very close to Hergé's simple story structure—the boy reporter follows a clue to one exotic location, where he gets another clue that leads him to another exotic location—and the resulting movie is very similar in content to the glory days of Indiana Jones, with a kid-friendly lean in the direction of cartoonishness. (Refreshingly, this is the first Spielberg movie in years not to choke on its own daddy issues, leaving more room for adventure and imagination.)
Turns out, motion-capture is the perfect medium for Tintin: Line animation would feel too slight, and the action sequences—a brilliant chase through the narrow streets of a seaside town, an epic battle between two pirate ships—would look silly if they were live-action. With his camera unfettered by reality (it swoops in the air like a daredevil pilot), Spielberg turns out to be the Goldilocks of the uncanny valley—everything is just right.