Anyone who follows the Daily's coverage-of-the-coverage roundups during festivals that roll out a series of high-profile premieres knows that first impressions don't always stick. So it's with a grain (or two or more) of salt that we dip into these early reviews, and we begin with an entry the New Yorker's Richard Brody posted on Thursday: "The creator of Tintin, Hergé (whom Anthony Lane wrote about in the magazine in 2007), was Belgian, and it's in Brussels that Steven Spielberg's 3D, motion-capture adaptation of the graphic novelist's world, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, premièred on Tuesday morning. (The movie opens in Europe on October 26th, and here on December 21st.) A pair of critics at the capital's newspaper Le Soir, Daniel Couvreur and Nicolas Crousse, waxed enthusiastic: 'We emerged from the theatre with our eyes sparkling like a crystal ball…. Spielberg succeeds, hands down, in making a great popular adventure film, in the best sense of the term…. The enthusiasm and the spirit of childhood, indissociable from Spielberg's cinema, are unreservedly infectious.'"
The AP rounds up more first takes from Belgium: "'Bull's eye,' headlined the Dutch-speaking De Standaard newspaper. 'A pure jewel' the Francophone Le Soir had on its front page, showing that the ever-bickering linguistic groups in this culturally divided nation had found a rare issue on which they could agree." L'Express and Premiere have also embraced the spectacle.
Today, Londoners saw a preview and Screen's Mike Goodridge supposes that the Hergé estate "must be thrilled that they entrusted Tintin to Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson who bring the character to the screen with much of the books' humor, spirit and sense of adventure intact. The Secret of the Unicorn is a spellbinding cinematic feat which delivers Tintin to a new generation with the same exhilaration as Spielberg and Lucas reinvented the '30s serials in Raiders of the Lost Ark 30 years ago…. Expanding on the superior motion capture technology developed by Jackson's Weta Digital for Avatar, Spielberg is the first filmmaker to render humans with success, helped by the fact that the characters' faces possess many of the exaggerated features drawn by Hergé."
"Here is a joyful play of opposites: the romance of old-school cinema, conjured by the slick synthesis of CG wizardry." Ian Nathan for Empire: "We open in what might be Paris, in what might be the '30s — as with Hergé, it is a mythical, timeless world: cobbled streets, shuttered windows, old ladies walking decadent dogs, and for the eagle-eyed cineaste a homage to Robert Bresson's 1959 Franco-classic Pickpocket…. Spielberg, with his writing trio of Anglo-nerds — Doctor Who's Steven Moffat, Scott Pilgrim's Edgar Wright and Adam & Joe's Joe Cornish — has bravely kept faith with the author."
"The first part of a trilogy produced by Spielberg and Peter Jackson, this kid-friendly thriller combines state-of-the-art 3D motion capture techniques with a witty, globe-trotting treasure hunt featuring the sleuthing boy reporter, his trustee fox terrier, and a cast of catchy side characters," writes Jordan Mintzer for the Hollywood Reporter. "Although only marginally popular in the States, Tintin is to many readers worldwide (especially in Western Europe and the UK) what Batman and Spider-Man are to Americans: a comic book they discovered as kids, grew up with and continue to cherish…. [T]he Tintin comics — originally published in French between 1930 and 1976 — have grown over the years into a multinational franchise that includes translations in dozens of languages, various animated films and TV series, two live-action movies, several theme stores, a museum and even a field of study known as 'Tintinology.' That said, Tintin himself is far from your typical, butt-kicking crime fighter. The blond-haired, baby-faced journalist has no known superpowers, no clear age, no apparent love interests and he resides in Brussels, which is a far cry from Krypton. If anything, his erudite approach to solving mysteries, along with a taste for escapades in the Middle East, Asia and Africa throughout the mid-20th century, make him a less brawny, more European counterpart to Indiana Jones."
For the Telegraph's new critic, Robbie Collin, though, "as a fan of both the Tintin adventures and Spielberg's cinematic swashbuckling since childhood, it left me underwhelmed. Hergé famously said that Spielberg was the only director capable of capturing the unique essence of his creation. That probably remains true. But this film hasn't done it."
More from indieLONDON and Matthew Leyland (Total Film); Time Out London presents a "definitive A-Z guide to the universe of Tintin."
Update: "Officially speaking," writes the Guardian's Xan Brooks, "The Adventures of Tintin is a conflation of three antique Hergé tales (The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure), with the ambiguities ironed out and the emphasis on the action as opposed to the comedy. It shows how the boy reporter (played here by Jamie Bell) plucks a model ship from a bric-a-brac stall and immediately finds himself targeted by all manner of gun-toting goons. The ship, it transpires, contains a rolled parchment that points the way to a long-lost stash of gold and jewels. Along the way, Tintin hooks up with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), the turbulent, whisky-sozzled descendant of seafaring nobility, now kept as a virtual prisoner aboard his boat…. How curious that Hergé achieved more expression with his use of ink-spot eyes and humble line drawings than a bank of computers and an army of animators were able to achieve. On this evidence, the film's pioneering 'performance capture' technique is still too crude and unrefined. In capturing the butterfly, it kills it too."
Updates, 10/17: "[A]s lovingly detailed a homage to the director's own past glories as to the source material itself, the film is perhaps most notable for its lack of tonal compromise, and occasionally hampered by an urge to translate as many facets of the Tintin phenomenon as the markedly trim 106-minute film can hold," writes Guy Lodge at In Contention. "Still, the film's smashing key set pieces – notably a gorgeous, breathless downhill chase through the streets and canals of Bagghar as thrilling as any live-action sequence from Spielberg's oeuvre – fully justify this technological leap of faith, while also successfully adapting the distinctive flat-color textures of Hergé's trademark ligne claire drawing style. It's in these scenes, presumably the toughest for the director to build with these unfamiliar tools, that The Adventures of Tintin nonetheless feels most effortlessly Spielbergian, with John Williams's insistently clangy score (most interesting when it creeps, Catch Me If You Can-style) a comfort even when it overbears. If any one image from the film sums up the assurance of this lickety-split franchise-starter, it's the playful sight gag of Tintin's trademark red quiff cutting through the ocean like a shark fin from Jaws: where Spielberg's last film [Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull] dispassionately clung to his popular legacy, this fresh, foreign inspiration gets him to include himself in the joke."
For Ambrose Heron, "some of the visual transitions, which explain potentially tricky plot elements, are done with such finesse and joy they suggest Spielberg was thoroughly enamored with his new digital tool kit. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest his love of shooting on celluloid and editing on a Steenbeck could be waning in the face of the possibilities afforded by digital?"
At the Playlist, Oliver Lyttelton culls eight observations from a feature appearing in the print edition of Empire.
For the Telegraph, Will Lawrence listens to Spielberg talk about Tintin's making.
Update, 10/18: "Coming out of the new Tintin film directed by Steven Spielberg," writes Nicholas Lezard for the Guardian, "I found myself, for a few seconds, too stunned and sickened to speak; for I had been obliged to watch two hours of literally senseless violence being perpetrated on something I loved dearly. In fact, the sense of violation was so strong that it felt as though I had witnessed a rape."
Update, 10/19: FirstShowing's Alex Billington's found two videos in which Spielberg and Jackson discuss working together.
Update, 10/22: "Peter Jackson, the film's producer, irritably waves off the age-old insinuations that Hergé was pro-Nazi," writes Simon Kuper in the Financial Times. "People who say that just want 'to sell newspapers or books,' the New Zealander told France's Le Figaro newspaper. It's too easy, he added, to attack somebody who can no longer defend himself, or to judge the war years from our own comfortable perch. If Jackson is right, nobody should ever write history. Yet the wartime Tintins are a fascinating topic for historians. The books provide a key both to Hergé's art and to the central trauma of his life."
"Employing long-time editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams, Spielberg seems like a kid in a candy shop particularly snatching up everything Jackson's WETA digital effects team (also responsible for this year's Rise of the Planet of the Apes) can imagine," writes Pete Hammond in Box Office. "[I]f there is any complaint at all it's that the non-stop action is sometimes too frenetic. Fortunately, it's all tempered by great character work from Bell, [Daniel] Craig and particularly Serkis, who after Jackson's King Kong and Lord of the Rings, plus Rise of the Planet of the Apes and now Tintin is clearly the king of performance capture — maybe his one-two punch as Haddock and Caesar will finally make the Oscars recognize his skills."
Update, 10/24: Tintin is "easily [Spielberg's] most enjoyable film since at least Minority Report, a charming, thrilling picture that makes the very best use of the cutting-edge tools it has to play with, while also paying tribute and honoring the source material," writes Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist. Granted, "an extended flashback half way through might outdo anything in the Pirates of the Caribbean series for swashbuckling action, but it also stops the film dead in its tracks, and while John Williams's score is solid,it lacks an iconic theme. It remains to be seen if The Adventures of Tintin will connect with US audiences; it's resolutely old-fashioned, from its youthful hero to the slapstick humor. But if it doesn't, there'll be a lot of people missing out on one of the best times at the movies we've had in a long while."