Rome 2011: The Adventures of Tintin

Presented as a special premiere in the Alice nella Città – Alice in the City selection of the International Rome Film Festival, the adaptation of Hergé's popular comic book hero captivated and thrilled the Italian audience.

In a cinematic world where directors, producers and screenwriters think it’s ok to make the same superhero origin movie over and over again, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin comes as a refreshing take on comic book adventure films. Never bothering to treat this as a “first movie” other than giving some basic information, Spielberg dives right into the action and never loses a beat. Everything happens so fast, in the best tradition of the Hergé books, and the epic quality of the Tintin adventures works perfectly with the technology used for the film, which is mostly an animated movie with brief glimpses of performance capture (a term that Tintin's Jamie Bell prefers to motion capture, as it underlines the performance aspect of the procedure).

And what's even better, the technology never overshadows the heart of the character. As much as the movie shows off the imaginative power of a camera that, through use of a computer, can do the impossible, what's really important and makes the movie successful is that Tintin is so lovable, and kind, and he is basically a kid. He's a journalist and an adventurer, sure, but like most of the people involved in making the movie, he's a kid at heart. The adventure that leads to his first encounter with Captain Haddock (a superb Andy Serkis) starts in the most whimsical of ways: Tintin is visiting a flea market, minding his own business, his faithful companion Snowy the dog with him. And then he falls in love – with a beautiful model of an old ship. Watching him fawning over the model is like watching a child longing for a wonderful new toy.

As the ship, which holds more than one secret, brings him to one misadventure after the other, Tintin never stops to ask why he is doing what he's doing, and the promise of a treasure never crosses his mind. Between one "great snakes!" and the other, Tintin constantly remains that kid who bought a model ship in a flea market and who wants to know where the next mystery will take him, because he's just too curious to let it go. Despite the life-threatening situations he finds himself in, he's just having so much fun. He's both naive and super smart, a true friend and a pest, innocent but not stupid, and always, always honest.

Keeping the same charm and humor of the source material, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriters Edgar Wright, Steven Moffat and Joe Cornish have created a beautiful homage to a lost kind of adventure story, one that keeps the characters world-hopping and ever on the verge of new mysteries. A world in which international intrigues are a must and impenetrable bulletproof glass can be shattered by the singing of a large Italian soprano, and yet, beyond even the most impossible and absurd situations, guns are still a real danger and a friendship can be tested by both irrational visions of past lives and something as real as alcohol addiction.

As Jamie Bell brilliantly and simply put it during the press conference, Tintin offered a playground to a grown man like Spielberg whose heart is filled with nostalgia, a playground that the 25-year-old actor gladly joined as a big fan of both Hergé and Spielberg himself. Tintin, Bell explained, was a huge part of his childhood. With their wide selection of enchanting and exotic landscapes, the books and cartoons were among Bell's few means to escape a dull life in a grey industrial town (well, that and dancing, obviously).

Exclusive ICS picture of Jamie Bell at The Adventures of Tintin press conference in Rome

Bell found this escapism again in the movie, a dream come true for a kid whose first significant cinematic experience was Jurassic Park, and who regarded Spielberg as a "powerful wizard" who could create magical worlds, before even knowing exactly what a director does. Much like Tintin who keeps going and going because he can't help wondering what comes next, Bell's experience on the set, with the technological challenges involved and the presence of one of his childhood idols, was full of wonderment and discovery and just a whole lot of fun.

That sense of wonder and great escapism is captured by the movie and, as Bell pointed out, the fact that we don't really know anything about Tintin as a person (in Bell's words: "Why is he a journalist and never writes anything anywhere? Why doesn't he have a girlfriend? Why is his only friend a dog?") helps the audience to actually become the traveling hero rather than just watch his adventures from the outside. Tintin is a blank page and we can imagine anything for him, we can even imagine that his life, between one adventure and another, is just as boring as most of ours. But for an hour and a half we can also become the baby-faced treasure-hunter, and it's wildly entertaining. Who wouldn't want to be, even just briefly, a guy who's taken seriously despite that haircut and who has a dog that can solve crimes?

Exclusive ICS pictures from The Adventures of Tintin red carpet in Rome
featuring Jamie Bell, Thompson & Thomson, Captain Haddock and Tintin