TINTIN IS NOT A BLAND CHARACTER! He’s one of the greatest characters ever written! Ok, let me start from the top:
I am a huge Tintin fan. I’ve been a fan of the comics for a while, and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) is actually one of my favourite movies. Not only did it present the fans a fantastic adaptation, practically a love letter… no, a love SYMPHONY to Hergé himself, but also a great and solid story for the people who haven’t seen the film. As most of you know, Steven Spielberg directed the film and Peter Jackson produced it, and both of them were hardcore fans of the comics, but as great storytellers they were also very careful in keeping a balance between a good adaptation and a standalone film. They did what a good film adaptation should do: give something for the fans and also something for the new generation. They also added their own storytelling elements while keeping the important elements in the comics intact, as long as these elements complemented each other. It’s also a great adventure film which we needed a long time ago. Actually, the story’s so well constructed that I really don’t understand why this didn’t get nominated for an Oscar (Animated or even Feature). At least it won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Film. WOHOO!
Now with my mini-review of the film out of the way (seriously, I could do a full analysis of the entire film and its story, but it’d be 10 times longer than this article), let’s begin with the major controversy surrounding the film. And no, it’s not the motion capture. In my honest opinion, the mo-cap is improved by a mile from the other mo-cap films. The facial expressions (even the eyes) are much improved and very well done, and the backgrounds and the attention to detail is unbelievably beautiful. I can still understand why others wouldn’t like it. But I digress. I stumbled across tons of reviews of the film, and on some I heard complaints towards Tintin’s character (which made me kinda sad). They said things like “Tintin’s boring”, “Tintin’s bland”, “Tintin’s not a relatable character”, etc. It’s a debate also surrounding the comics themselves. The question right now is “Is Tintin a boring character?” And I say: Absolutely not. In fact, I actually think he’s one of the most interesting and fascinating characters ever created.
Yes, people will go for Captain Haddock as their favourite character in both the comics and the film (played brilliantly by Andy Serkis), as he’s the most colourful character of the two. As much as I adore Haddock, Tintin’s my favourite character. Let’s just say that if Haddock is the character you want to hang out with, then Tintin’s the character you want to be. Tintin’s more of a role model, but he’s also someone you could encounter in real life. Kinda like Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
So how did Tintin come about? Originally the comics were released every week in a newspaper section for kids called Le Petit Vingtième. The series started out kinda focusing on political satire, but (I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s true) Hergé didn’t want to give out any particular political views of his own or anyone else’s. So he created a neutral character (and no political views of his own) for everyone to relate to. That’s how Tintin’s mystique began. That’s why we don’t know his age, his nationality (we know at least he’s European) or where he came from, whether he has any more family members, etc. But that’s one of the most fascinating aspects about him. He become an open book through his mysteriousness, and anyone can put themselves into his shoes. The idea is anyone can be him.
So what else is so great about Tintin? The fact that he’s good, smart, strong and awesome? Well, yeah, but there’s more to that. The arguments against Tintin are usually these: 1) Tintin has no backstory and we’re given little to no information about him. 2) He has no personality or character traits. 3) He doesn’t change in the comics or learn anything. Let’s look at each one, shall we?
I’ll start with “no backstory and no background information”. Well, it’s not like we don’t know anything about him: we do know he’s a famous reporter, we know that he travels all over the world, he tends to find himself into trouble, he has a smart dog named Snowy, he get the bad guys when they’re doing no good, and all that jazz. What about Aladdin? Excluding the TV series and the other two movies, and just judging the first movie on its own: We don’t know his age, we don’t know his exact backstory, and all we know is he’s regarded as a street-rat, he has a monkey friend and he’s a thief trying to get by the streets. If people are gonna complain about that, then why not complain about Aladdin too? Besides, this isn’t how storytelling works! You can’t just ALWAYS give out a backstory. It’s not like in, say, “The Hare and the Tortoise” fable where the story stops and says “the tortoise’s father was an alcoholic and his mother left him when he was three.” That’s just ridiculous! Not everything’s a character study like Citizen Kane! If the backstory’s something that’s explains who the character truly is and what he does, then that’s fine. For example, it’s VERY important to know about Bruce Wayne and his parent’s death. It explains his motivations. Tintin being a reporter travelling around the world is actually enough to explain who he is, but I’ll get to that later.
Next we have “no personality or character traits”. I have to disagree with that. He may be a role model, but Tintin has a lot of characteristics and humanistic flaws which are even present in the film itself (and Jamie Bell plays Tintin spot-on). He thinks like an adult, but has the curiosity and love-for-adventure of a kid. He’s soft-spoken and polite, but can lose his temper. He’s observant, but when he’s too concentrated on something he’s oblivious to his surroundings (making him an easy target for an attack, and being hit in the head a lot. Poor kid). He’s very intelligent and very clever, but will make assumptions. He can be awesome, but also clumsy at times. He can fend for himself, but will get kidnapped or be in trouble and will need help from his dog or anyone else. And finally, he’s optimistic, but will lose hope when the situation looks too bad. How is that “no personality or character traits”? How is that “too perfect”? And it’s not like he’s perfect either. He will make mistakes! He will act and react to situations. What more do you want?!
Finally, on the argument of “he doesn’t change or learn anything.” Firstly, a character doesn’t have to LEARN a moral. Secondly, yes, a character has to go through some sort of change, but it’s not always an internal change. It can be an external change. In the film, Tintin solved the secret of The Unicorn and also got a new friend: Captain Haddock. Anyway, what matters the most is their characters’ QUEST and MOTIVATION. What’s are his goals and does he go through and face any challenges? Well, he does solve the mystery and he also influences Captain Haddock to realise his own potential, despite the tough challenge. The most important thing from a character in a story is “What do the want and why?” WHAT a character wants puts that character through a certain challenge or path, but as to WHY they want it explains who the character is under the surface. We know Tintin wants to solve the mystery of the Unicorn. But WHY does he want to do all this? What does he get out of it? And this is what’s most fascinating about this character. He’s not doing this because he just good. Sure, he has a pure heart and will try and stop the bad guys, but that’s not his primary motivation. In the film, notice what words he chooses: “It’s my job, you see. There might be a story here…”; “It’s for a story I’m working on”; “I’m looking for answers.” It’s already established at the very beginning of the film that he’s famous for going on adventures and fighting bad guys. When he calls himself a reporter, it’s his way of calling himself an adventurer. Adventure is what he considers his job and what he loves doing the most. There’s just this thrill that he gets out of these adventures. Going on these adventures is his way of saying “that’s my life”; it’s almost his own purpose of being alive. That’s not only very heavy, but also a perfectly legitimate motivation in the story, and what makes him such a good role model for other people. “Live an adventure, live life.” When something comes up to him, when he smells a mystery or an adventure, he’ll take the challenge in a heartbeat. That’s what it means to be Tintin.
What I call complete LIES is when some people said that “he’s passive”. I don’t know if they SLEPT through the whole film to say such thing, but Tintin did almost everything! He is extremely proactive! Sure, Snowy did help him out in many scenes, but it’s not like Tintin can do every single thing! If he didn’t need his dog or anyone else, then he’d be perfect. And that would suck hard! Snowy’s kinda like Abu in Aladdin, or Rufus in Kim Possible.
So I hope this helps you understand what I feel about all these complaints. I feel bad that The Adventures of Tintin isn’t regarded as one of the greatest animated films ever made, but I don’t blame the audiences. I wrote this article as a hardcore fan of the comics and movie because of these repeating complaints over Tintin. Also… well… hehe… let’s just say I have a crush on Tintin. 🙂