BLOG Tintin And The Uncanny Valley

SFX Blogger John Cooper argues for the Tintin purist. Will the new movie reflect Herge's original vision?

I can’t get excited about the new Tintin movie. I’ve read all the books – loaned from my big brother, who’s a massive fan. He has everything including biographies of Herge, a bonkers English translation of the first collected serial “Tintin In The Land Of The Soviets” and a first edition of “Tintin In The Congo”, both of which present a main character who by today’s standards would be said to have “behavioural issues”, and a lack of cultural awareness; far from the character Tintin would eventually become.

This isn’t the problem I’ve got with the imminent Spielberg/Jackson movie, which is more a question of aesthetics. Herge developed a distinctive signature style for the Tintin books and at its height its production was more than just the man himself but a “Studios Herge” employing over a dozen people working on various aspect of a book’s production, from line work and backgrounds to photo research. Georges Remi under the moniker Herge was known for his meticulous devotion to accuracy and would get copious photographic references for locations and vehicles, and theoretical information to aid narrative, which made Destination Moon and Explorers On The Moon the classics that they are. The artwork was revised and scrutinised so it flowed for the reader in either its serialised original form, or as a collected edition.

There have been a few attempts to translate Tintin to the screen. Shown memorably in the UK, the old Belvision animated adaptation (1958-62) used a lot of stock footage while the later 1991-1992 Ellipse/Nelvana co-op production reproduced original frames of artwork in the animation. It ran for three series and for me is the definitive animated version, mainly as it looks gorgeous in 2D and is the books brought to life.

I’ve watched two trailers for the new movie and I’m really not convinced. Leaving the 3D aspect aside, I’m sure it’ll be a great film, but it's not Tintin. On its own merit I can see what’s been attempted, aiming for an authentic and realistic looking world for the stylised expressive characters to inhabit – just like the books – but to me it just looks odd. Blistering Barnacles! Am I the only person who thinks the realistic-looking skin stretched over and unrealistic simplified face looks just a little bit scary? I’m trying to like it but it’s an uncanny valley – not quite real and not at all what I know to be Tintin. The original creator had a vision and style that went hand in hand with his creation. This isn’t it.