Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeeeee, happy Birthday to ME!
Yes, quite. Well anyway, as you may have gathered I have now ticked over to the ripe old age of 27. However since two days ago I sliced my foot open on a nail, with all the wonderful things that such an event sounds like it would entail, I couldn’t really get out and do much. Not that I’m really in much of a position to do anything exciting anyway but hey, that’s life.
So since the local and wonderfully cheap cinema was showing both Tintin and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I thought I could just about manage to hobble down to see those instead. Both were good, but for utterly different reasons.
First up, the Adventures of Tintin. Reception to this seems to have been mixed, though more leaning towards the positive than the negative. I have to say however that if you watch Tintin and say you don’t like it, then you officially don’t have a soul.
I don’t even know where to start with this. I suppose the first and best place to start would be with the animation. Spielberg and Jackson decided to go with a quasi-realistic form of computer generated animation, eschewing Pixar’s more cartoon-ey designs for something more akin to The Polar Express or Beowulf. There are still echo’s of it’s cartoon-based nature of course, half the characters have rediculously large noses for one, but largely the environments and people lean more towards realism than charicature. Where it could have failed with this is to walk down the Uncanny Valley like the Polar Express did so badly, where everyone looks like they’re some sort of terrifying doll come to give you sleep-depriving nightmares for the rest of your existence.
Tintin however manages to completely avoid this. By endorsing the slight cartoonish ‘tick’ to the characters, they are able to avoid this disturbing almost-human look by not really trying. Combined with some otherwise fantastically detailed imagery and this is certainly a film that is kind on the eyes.
The level of attention to detail paid to each scene is utterly fantastic as well. Here you can feel Peter Jacksons hand on the wheel. Where in Lord of the Rings with each viewing if you look around the varying fight scenes you can see all sorts of choreographed stuff happening incidentally in the background, so it is with Tintin. A particular standout scene towards the end plays out almost like you’re watching a Where’s Wally book in motion – dozens of different moments happening behind the main characters whilst they speed through an exotic Arabic location.
The voice acting, always a key part of animated movies, is also particularly fine. Andy Serkis is fantastic as the perpetually drunk Captain Haddock and Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team up yet again this time as Thompson & Thompson practically becoming caricatures of themselves at this point. Toby Jones also turns up again. What is it with this guy? Since he was on one of the best Doctor Who episodes of the Matt Smith era Amy’s Choice I’ve seen him in Captain America, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and now this. Guy gets around certainly.
As for the story, well obviously I won’t go into too much detail. I will say that I found it to be fantastic, with great pacing, comedy moments and some wonderfully imaginative action sequences that take full advantage of the sort of things you can do when none of the shit you’re filming actually exists. The characterization of Captain Haddock was probably my favorite, replete with many jokes that will go straight over kids heads but everyone else will be smiling wryly. A moment where he manages to restart the failing engine of a seaplane by breathing heavily into it with his extremely alcoholic breath was a particularly inspired moment.
All in all it was a lot better than I had expected by some margin. As a child I had read the occasional Tintin book, but having always been more of a fan of Asterix I tended to steer clear of them. As such I may be immune to some of the complaints of the Diehard Tintin fans out there since I was never particularly closely attached to the source material in the first place. So from an outsiders perspective all I can do is thoroughly recommend it to everyone. In the world. Ever.
At the opposite end of the spectrum we have the intensely dark and slow-boiling crime thriller adaptation of Stieg Larssons phenomenally popular novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘. When I first heard this was being made I found it utterly bizarre, since a very well received adaptation was already made in it’s country of origin, my lovely Sweden, literally just two years ago! However as proved with ‘Let the Right One In’ where literally the same thing happened, it would seem that Hollywood has an appetite for the growing popularity of the ‘Nordic Noir’ genre but only if it’s all in English first.
The films pacing seems a bit wonky at times. The first act hops between following journalist Mikael Blomkvist portrayed by Daniel Craig and Lisbeth Salander played by Rooney Mara with no obvious link going on until they are pulled together in the second act. The tone between these two segments couldn’t be more different if it tried. Mikael’s sections are basically all detective story, whilst Lisbeths mostly involves being raped repeatedly and generally being subjected to shitty behaviour by everyone she meets. It does a good job of setting the tone and introducing the characters certainly, but I did find myself wondering where this was all going for a little while.
The thing that makes this film even more weird is that it’s still set in Sweden. Typically with Hollywood remakes of this type they go all the way and transpose everything to an American setting, often with hilarious results.
This though chose to remain in Sweden, if only to taunt me with the fact that I’m not going to be able to visit it this year. As a result it comes off incredibly authentic in that regard, and with mostly Swedish (or at least Scandinavian) actors this also helps. However the casting of the lead characters to two decidedly not-Swedish actors, who in Danial Craig’s case doesn’t even bother to try and affect an accent deciding to take the Sean Connery approach to accents, you have to wonder exactly what David Finch was thinking when he mapped all this out.
I guess what I’m getting at here is that it all feels rather pointless. It’s a good film, don’t get me wrong. It takes off spectacularly later on, and the performances are by and large very good, but I guess I just don’t understand why. Well actually I do understand.
The Girl with the Dragon tattoo has sold around 15 million copies worldwide, which is not exactly a small number. Couple that with English-speaking nations general distaste of any film that’s not in English (so yes, I’m not just blaming America for this) and you have an instant way to make an extra stack of shiney, shiney monies. It seems to have worked too.
Also one of the main locations looks just like Sodertuna Slott where I went to see my Swedish friends get married back in 2010. I don’t know if it is or not, though apparently it was in the original film, but the resemblance was uncanny.