I was stationed here in Japan starting in January 2009 and I change to another duty station January 2013; with San Diego intended as the next destination. Stepping off the plane at Narita Airport in Tokyo Japan, I was perplexed (albeit expectedly) by neon signs written in Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. The ATM machines have an animated teller that bows to the user after money is dispersed. The easiest way to communicate with locals who do not speak English is add an “O” at the end of some words. Such as “set-O” will let a restaurant owner or attendant know that you want a combination meal. In regards to movies it is expensive but highly entertaining to watch U.S and U.K releases in Toho Cinemas. The actual movie previews have a Japanese narrator and feature some highly amusing anti-piracy cartoons interwoven into the mix. A teddy bear and a man that looks like a cross between Street Fighter’s M. Bison and Adolph Hitler, threaten to destroy anyone that creates a disturbance or is caught recording a movie. Unlike the movie tickets (which can be up to a whopping $29 U.S dollars) the concessions stand is actually cheaper than in the U.S. Along with popcorn, one can buy hotdog, chicken nuggets, and quality ramen noodles. The lists of drinks are very odd to Americans. Orange Juice, coffee, and apple juice top the menu along with “normal” carbonated beverages.
Today I took my eight year old son to see The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret Of The Unicorn in 2D (I detest 3D) today at Shimoda-Shi Japan’s Toho Cinemas. The Japanese pronounce TinTin as “TonTon”. And below are my thoughts of Steven Spielberg’s latest efforts.
The Adventures of TinTin remains faithful to the late Herge’s classic comic book series while having its own unique vision. Everything that Steven Spielberg has said before the release of this film is true:
- The movie has a very atmospheric and film nourish feel. Steven Spielberg’s cinematographer Janusz Kaminski served as a lighting consultant on the movie, and his presence is certainly felt. The night scenes are very shadowy but not overly dark. The audience can clearly see where the natural light is coming from. TinTin’s flashlight illuminates dust particles that are in air of a room that contains danger or the next clue in his hunt to find the sunken Unicorn Ship. The picture clarity is wide and crystal-clear with minor grains that gives the illusion that the movie was shot on 70mm anamorphic film in the tradition of Lawrence of Arabia.
- The characters indeed look photo realistic. Of course the movie does not make the mistake that the critically and financially disastrous Mars Needs Moms commits: By going into the uncanny valley territory. The uncanny valley territory is when a movie or another form of presentation tries to mimic real life, but fails because the moviegoer mind is in constant conflict over whether the image is supposed to be real or not. The characters on screen look like re-animated corpses to the viewer. The characters on TinTin have exaggerated features and superb voice animation that avoids the uncanny valley territory. Fibers on clothing, reflections in eyes, and even the medulla on character’s necks can be seen.
-TinTin is very much like The Indiana Jones Trilogy, for as far as Cinematic Impact is concerned the atrocious Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull does not exist. TinTin has grand mystery, swash buckling/desert chase sequencing action, and characters that could not exist in the real world, yet are simultaneously audience pleasing. TinTin is no Dr. Indian Jones, and certainly does not want to die. Yet his will power to expose evil and give the world the scoop on a story is commendable. The charming yet rarely sober Captain Haddock is the most interesting character. Haddock holds the secret to the Unicorn in this film and as Herge’s comic strip goes, he will be the source of action in the latter installments of this planned trilogy. The bumbling and slightly incompetent detectives Thompson and Thomson are on likable par with the Arab excavator Sallah from the Indy Trilogy.
Is TinTin as good as any of the Indian Jones movies? Well, it is certainly better than the movie that we said does not exist, and better than the good but underappreciated Temple of Doom. But it is no Raiders Of The Lost Ark or The Last Crusade. Nonetheless this does not keep it from being the year’s most fun film thus far. Too bad there is no longer an academy award for best title sequence. For the title sequence for TinTin is even livelier than the title sequence featured in Catch Me If You Can. John William’s score has appreciated remnants of the scores of Minority Report, Munich, and Catch Me If You Can. TinTin’s plot is thick enough to hold an adult’s interest but thin (but not insipid) enough for adolescent viewers to enjoy. The action has a hard edge, but the tone of the movie keeps it in limbo between PG and PG-13. Spielberg and visual effects supervisors push Weta Digital’s capabilities to the max, and get Avatar quality results with a 135 Million dollar budget as compared to Fox Studios’ blue themed powerhouse’s 237 million dollar budget. Of course Avatar was nearly an hour longer and utilized location outside of the studio’s soundstage.
Steven Spielberg is a master storyteller, and I hope that Peter Jackson can improve upon this very commendable effort. Jackson needs to top what Spielberg had done here, for with Avatar 2 around the corner, there may be room for only one motion captured movie in town.
The Adventures Of TinTin: The Secret Of The Unicorn: B+