Hey America! You’ve been given what you always wanted — a TINTIN movie directed by Steven Spielberg! Right?
But despite the years of clamor for this entertainment — and the enthusiastic bowler-hatted selling by Spielberg and co-producer Peter Jackson — THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN has been a bit of an underperformer at the crowded Chrsitmas box office, coming in at #5 for the long weekend with a 4-day weekend take of $14.3 million and a cumulative of $22.3 million. This has not been a huge worry to Paramount and Sony, however, because worldwide, it’s already made $240 million.
So why the fail here in the US? Everyone has blamed the low showing on the fact that no one here knows Tintin. But is that the only reason? Frankly, we’d like to gather the deductive reasonings of the other box office contenders this weekend — the IMF gang led by Ethan Hunt, Holmes and Watson, the Swedish Millennium snoopers, and of course, the Chipmunks—to investigate just why or why was it decided that creepy, offputting CGI animation was the best way to bring Tintin to unlife? Daniel D. Snyder at the Atlantic has launched yet another investigationinto CGI’s uncomfortable sojourn in the Uncanny Valley:
Instead of trying to bring to life Herge’s beautiful artwork, Spielberg and co. have opted to bring the movie into the 3D era using trendy motion-capture technique to recreate Tintin and his friends. Tintin’s original face, while barebones, never suffered for a lack of expression. It’s now outfitted with an alien and unfamiliar visage, his plastic skin dotted with pores and subtle wrinkles (one can’t help but recall Homer Simpson’s terror at the vision of a real-world Bart and Lisa). While all the characters sport some kind of cartoonish features—especially their ears and noses—their photorealistic eyes are somehow blank. It’s especially odd considering that it is the goal of animation to exaggerate features into even more outrageous modes of expression. Perfect mimicry in itself pointless. In bringing them to life, Spielberg has made the characters dead.
We’ve gone back and forth over this in the years that TINTIN has been in the works. Sure, Spielberg wanted to make this movie for years, but when he finally got the financing together, instead of trying traditional animation or live action — both of what have already been done in Europe — he went for the new frontier, perhaps egged on by Dr. Frankenstein, aka Robert Zemeckis, whose fascination with near-life is getting pretty uncanny in its own right.
We’ve yet to see TINTIN ourselves because of the holiday — but surely some of you have. What do you think, readers? Does it work?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.