The Adventures of Tintin in 3D: Mixed Feelings

I’ve been a lifelong Tintin fan. My uncle is only a few years older than me, and he’s had the collection for as long as I can remember. I was browsing through the comics long before I could read, and by the time I was seven years old, I knew the stories by heart.

I welcomed the news of a 3D movie with a mixture of excitement and doubt. The cartoon adaptations were one thing, but I’ve seen how Hollywood treats adaptations, and while there are some which are good, there are those that make me wish they’ve just been left alone. The names Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson should have alleviated my fears, but even so, it wasn’t a guarantee that it would be a great movie.

I watched in on IMAX and I enjoyed the entire movie. I loved the opening sequence, the little references to other Tintin stories and how it showed the viewers how a typical Tintin adventure would go. The first scene at the market was quite faithful to the comic, and you can’t help but be captivated by the spectacular animation. Technology has so become advanced that while the characters were identifiable as Tintin, or the Captain, or Thompson and Thomson, they were realistic enough to be considered not so cartoony.

The story… ah. Here, my feelings are very much mixed. Like I said, I enjoyed the movie, but because I knew the story nearly by heart, I was a little bothered by the changes in the storyline. While I acknowledge the need for Spielberg, Jackson and their creative team to practice some liberties to fit the story for the big screen (after all, Red Rackham’s Treasure was nothing more than an account of Tintin’s group’s misadventures as they search for the treasure), it was rather weird to see certain parts of other Tintin stories included in what was supposed to be “The Secret of the Unicorn” and “Red Rackham’s Treasure”.

I shouldn’t really care, but dammit, I do. I suppose I’m giving off a mixed signal here. Yes, I liked the movie but… it’s a big “but” that I somehow can’t expound on.

However, I do recommend you see it. It is a fun watch, fast-paced with plenty of funny moments. If anything, Spielberg and Jackson got the personalities of the characters right, and Snowy was just awesome.

[—SPOILERS—]
If you care to, I’ve listed down the differences that I’ve spotted. It contains plenty of spoilers, so proceed with caution.

The Adventures of Tintin: Movie vs. Comic

  • In the movie, Tintin and Captain Haddock met for the first time on the ship. In the comic, the two men were already friends. Haddock was the reason why Tintin bought the ship in the first place because he thought the Captain would like it.
  • In the movie, Tintin only learns of Sir Francis Haddock’s story when they crash into the desert. In the comic, Captain Haddock tells the story in the beginning when Tintin presents to him the model and recognizes it as the Unicorn.
  • In the movie, the villain is Ivan Sakharine who is touted as Red Rackham’s descendant and bent on revenge towards the Haddocks. In the comic, Sakharine is a collector who did own the first piece and wanted the second one for comparison. After he is confronted by Tintin, Sakharine does not appear in the story again, and the angle that he was Red Rackham’s descendant was never in the comic.
  • The villains in The Secret of the Unicorn are two brothers with the last name Bird who discovered the hidden scroll inside the Unicorn and wanted to get it for themselves. The pickpocket in the story also played a larger role in the comic. In Red Rackham’s Treasure, there was really no bad guy.
  • In the movie, Tintin and Haddock discovered a small part of the treasure inside Marlinspike Hall before embarking on a treasure search in the open sea. In the comic, they went out to the sea first, following the coordinates on the scrolls and retracing Sir Francis’s journey after he sank the Unicorn (this includes a stay in a tropical island where everyone thought the treasure was buried), before they ended back in Marlinspike and realized the truth of the message in the scrolls. The coordinates point to the island where Sir Francis was stranded in and when pressed, released a latch (in the movie, Captain Haddock said that the island does not exist).
  • No one (in Tintin’s camp anyway) really knew the connection between Marlinspike Hall and Captain Haddock at the start of the story. The Bird brothers used it as a base for their operations. When they kidnapped Tintin, they kept him hostage here but he managed to escape. It wasn’t until the end of the comic “Red Rackham’s Treasure” did they know of the connection, thanks to Professor Calculus.
  • At the end of “Red Rackham’s Treasure, Professor Calculus purchased Marlinspike Hall was as a sign of gratitude to the Captain for allowing them to test his shark submarine. One of the discoveries from the Unicorn’s wreck were old documents which the Professor managed to decipher and discovered that Marlinspike was the Haddock family estate. The treasure was discovered by accident, after having given up on finding it.
  • Captain Haddock does have a ship, a trawler called Sirius, which they used to hunt for the sunken treasure. They eventually found the Unicorn’s wreck, but save for a gold cross and tons of rum, they didn’t find any treasure. The wreck eventually became part of an exhibit Captain Haddock hosted in Marlinspike.
  • A good part of the movie is actually a mishmash of various scenes from different Tintin stories. Scenes on the Karaboudjan up until the theft of the third scroll were mostly from King Ottokar’s Sceptre (where Madame Castafiore was supposed to sing for the King) and The Golden Claws (the Karaboudjan, the plane crash, desert scene and location of the desert kingdom).
  • In the comic, Madame Castiafiore, Tintin, Captain Haddock, Thompson and Thomson already knew each other. They will meet Professor Cuthbert Calculus later on as they search for Red Rackham’s Treasure. Professor Calculus is not present in the movie.