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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
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Brain Activity



Tintin, Mr. Spielberg. Mr. Spielberg–Tintin.

May 16th, 2008 by Steven Gould

Now, I was born long after the first Tintin comic was published. In fact, I believe my parents weren’t born yet (though they were about to be.) But Tintin was indomitable and I read his adventures in college, blessed with roommates who collected the English editions.


Tintin was indomitable. Per the official site, he (and his dog Snowy) made his first appearance in print 10 January 1929. Since that time over 230 million copies printed in over eighty languages have come out and, despite creator Herge’s death in 1983, the series is as popular as ever.

Steven Spielberg is doing a three movie adaptation and he’s chosen his Tintin. Thomas Sangster (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, and The Last Legion) will play the intrepid (if hair-challenged) hero.

I can see it.

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Fiction, Movies, Science Fiction, Steve | 12 Comments »

12 Responses

  1. Madeleine Robins Says:

    Oooh, me too!! Nice.

  2. Patrick Nielsen Hayden Says:

    Doctor Who fans will recognize Thomas Sangster from the two-part episode currently on the Hugo ballot, “Human Nature” / “The Family of Blood” (written by the terrific Paul Cornell).

    I grew up with Tintin books. I remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time and saying “If Spielberg isn’t a Tintin fan, I’ll be very surprised.”

  3. Sean Craven Says:

    I’m having some doubts about posting this comment — I try to be an infinite fountain of positive energy in the universe — but this sounds like a really terrible idea to me on a number of different levels.

    (I’m not trying to impugn anyone’s taste here… just throwing in my two cents worth. Also I’ve got some illustrations to work on so I really, really need some avoidance behavior. Plus, hey, I like to complain.)

    First off, the only way to pull off Tintin in a movie is to animate it. We identify with cartoons in an entirely different fashion than we identify with filmed actors.

    The whole idea of an adventuresome boy reporter totally rocks as a kid’s comic strip specifically because of Herge’s visual approach.

    See, Tintin-the-cartoon isn’t so much a character as an opening into the story for the reader. You experience the story as Tintin. His face is blank and open; his only personality traits are those most children would like to imagine themselves as having.

    As a result when Tintin is in peril we identify with him; when he shoots a bad guy we experience the thrill of combat vicariously.

    Put Tintin on screen with a live actor and all of a sudden it becomes obvious how ridiculous — how appalling, even — it is to have a child performing those actions.

    One of Tintin’s greatest strengths as a cartoon character is his independence. But to see a real child without any guidance or guardianship is, frankly, distressing.

    In the comics you never need to ask what happened to Tintin’s parents. It’s a gimme and the audience runs with it, no problem.

    In a movie this question is no longer moot (especially given Hollywood’s current and unfortunate obsession with back story) and there is no way to answer the question of how Tintin came to be a pistol-packing whiskey-drinking underage reporter that would leave the audience in the same state of innocence that makes the comics so enjoyable. The fact that this kid is a lot younger than the Tintin of the comics makes things even more grotesque.

    Next is the whole issue of Spielberg. I will grant that he’s got a real gift for creating tension inside of a scene but so far as I can tell (and I know I’m in the minority here) he’s incapable of stringing those scenes together into a real movie most of the time.

    I dug Raiders and Catch Me If You Can; the rest of his oeuvre leaves me either cold or bristling with irritation.

    In particular I really, really, really hate his treatment of children. He doesn’t get kids. Worse than that is the whole ongoing Bad Dad Therapy theme in his work. Double ick.

    (And as an aside I think his treatment of fat people is pretty contemptible as well. Dennis Nedry, that kid in Hook — genuinely offensive stuff.)

    See, I don’t think we’re gonna get Raiders Of The Lost Ark here.

    I predict another Hook.

  4. Madeleine Robins Says:

    Y’know, I think Hook gets a bad rap. There are excesses (the theme park Neverland drove me crazy, and Julia Roberts had nothing much to do but beam, which was icky) but the more times I’ve seen it (ex officio, because I’m a Mom) the better it has worn with me. He has a tendency to go “nudge-get-it? Get-it? Nudge?” Particularly with codas like the ones in Schindler’s List and Private Ryan, and his frequent lamentable use of John “Let-My-Music-Tell-You-What-To-Feel” Williams’ scores; but he also has moments of sensitivity and smarts. Also, he doesn’t condescend to genre material the way that some directors do.

    I’m not certain that Spielberg can pull off Tin-Tin, but I think it’s at least possible. God knows he has a better shot at it than, say, Chris Columbus.

  5. James Hollaman Says:

    When i found out they was going to do a live action i was wondering how they was going to do it. i was a little bit scared. but then i started thinking, you know what, i’m to use to the comic book. may be he will do a good job, and lets face it change happens to a lot of things when they get on to the big screen. But i have decided to wait till i see it done before i start to complaine about it. i’m crossing my fingers they do a great job.

  6. Steven Gould Says:

    Well, hopefully, think IRONMAN, not FANTASTIC FOUR.

  7. Sean Craven Says:

    Okay, after being Mr. Poopypants I’d like to point y’all in the direction of the long-extinct comic book Cud by Terry LaBan (along with Chris Bachalo my favorite comic artist named after a foreign food — yoghurt and salt cod, respectively).

    The main features were always a little weak; the rest of the book was brilliant. My favorite was Mickey Pimple, Teen Adventurer, a spot-on demolition of Tintin-style escapades. Rather than Snowy the terrier, Mickey was accompanied by Barney the Backwards Beagle (“Don’t let him lick ya!”), and the supporting cast was replaced by a much creepier and sexually ambiguous bunch influenced by Terry and the Pirates and other classic adventure strips… Honestly, this was laugh out loud stuff, especially if you’ve got both a fondness for Tintin and a mean streak.

  8. Hatty Says:

    I think the real problem here is the age difference! Tintin wasn’t a child! I think it’s likely that I watch too much Law & Order: SVU, but all I can think of when imaging that kid on screen with those weird adults is “Why did you touch the children”!!!!

    I jut don’t see how a kid will be able to convincingly do all the investigations that Tintin does, what about the travel, and how could so many people possibly try and kill a kid. I really don’t see that part going down well either.

    Also, if Snowy doesn’t get drunk a lot, there will be HELL to pay. ;)

  9. Adam Simpson Says:

    agree 100% with Hatty. Through my years of reading Tintin books, I always did so from the standpoint that he is a young man. A youhthful one, but an adult none the less. One that traveled independantly, got in fist fights, rode horses, knew how to handle a gun, and, quite obviously in the books, lived in his own apartment. It will take a significant suspension of disbelief to see a ten-year-old child play that character. What concerns me more about this choice is what I call the Disneyfication of the stories. I can see them ending up as movies aimed at kids in the way that Star Wars Episode 1 or The Temple of Doom were, in which the stories simply became contrived and cute with tiresomely precocious children at the centre of the action. But, I suppose this is where the money is.

  10. Adam Simpson Says:

    I stand corrected: I just found out that the boy considered for the role of Tintin is actually now 18 years old. By the time shooting begins, he’ll almost be the age I imagined for the character (early twenties). Plus, if three movies are in the works, he’ll have grown into the role by the time the third is produced.

  11. Madeleine Robins Says:

    Hmm. According to IMDB, Sangster is no longer attached to the project (which is listed as 3-D motion capture, so the look of it may vary considerably from the look of the actual actors) and the person who will be playing Tintin is Jamie Bell, of Billy Elliott and, um, Jumper-the-Movie fame. Steve, got any thoughts?

  12. Steven Gould Says:

    My thoughts? Jamie Bell is a friggin’ genius and was the best thing about the Jumper movie. He’s got a wide range of accents and scary acting chops. I bet he’ll be great.

    (Yes, he doesn’t look like Tintin but if it is motion capture, who cares?)

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