The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

The British broadsheets (or should I say, Tintin fans who write for them) have been slaming this film ever since it was released last month. I decided to reserve judgement until I actually saw the film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011), directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson. Well, I’ve now seen the film and it gets a definite thumbs down from me. First off, it ain’t a real Tintin adventure: not only has Spielberg mishmashed plots from different Tintin books (The Crab With The Golden Claws and The Secret Of The Unicorn) he has also tried to ‘blockbuster’ dear old Tintin, which completely goes against the ethos of what Tintin is all about. Below is a frame from Hergé’s original Secret Of The Unicorn, showing the fight sequence on the ship as recalled by Captain Haddock. Hergé is the pen name of Georges Rémi (1907-1983), who created Tintin back in the 1920s and pioneered the ‘clear line’ style of drawing cartoons.

And here’s the trailer for the Spielberg film, also showing the fight sequence on the ship. Note the difference from the above Hergé frame, which shows an exciting fight in daylight, with the Spielberg film which is all boringly blockbustry. The really bizaare thing is that Hergé’s The Secret Of The Unicorn is a good story. Why do the dickheads in Hollywood feel a need to change it..? I’ve answered my own question: they’re complete dickheads…

The American accent voice-over on the above trailer says: Four hundred years ago a power that could have changed the course of history was lost. Generations have searched for it… etc, etc. This is complete bollocks and is a spin on the original story by Hergé, which was about a search for an obscure lost treasure.

I’m not going to go on about my other reasons for disliking the movie. You can find most of them in this recent piece in the Guardian…

How could they do this to Tintin?

Instead, out of all the zillions of frames that Hergé drew for the Tintin books he always said that the one shown below was his favourite. The frame is from Red Rackham’s Treasure (1943), the sequel to The Secret Of The Unicorn.

Tintinologists have debated for years just why this frame was Hergé’s favourite. Who knows. Hergé was a complex person. If you want to know a bit more about Hergé and Tintin you could do no worse than take a look at my Tintin pages.

One of my own favourite Tintin frames is shown in the header of this blog. It’s from The Calculus Affair (1956), which was Hergé’s take on the Cold War. Here’s a larger version of the frame…

Another favourite of mine is from Destination Moon (1953)…

I’m one of those people who will tell you that Hergé’s masterpiece was The Castafiore Emerald (1963). Structurally, The Castafiore Emerald is a list of false expectations for the reader. Almost every page ends in a cliffhanger, and the atmosphere of tension never flags, without any definite result. “My ambition”, explained Hergé, “was to try and tell a tale in which absolutely nothing happened, simply to see whether I was capable of keeping the reader’s attention to the end”. The result was wildly successful, “a triumph of repose”, as Hergé put it. You have to read The Castafiore Emerald to understand why Spielberg has got it all so wrong. Spielberg’s godawful The Secret Of The Unicorn ends with a set-up for the sequel. Please, no.

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