France frets over Tintin's Hollywood Adventure

There are few things the left-leaning Liberation and right-wing Le Figaro dailies will ever agree on. Splashing comic book -and now motion-capture animation movie- hero Tintin on their front page is one of them. On Wednesday, Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” will hit the big screen in France, two months ahead of its planned release in US theatres. The international edition of TIME magazine has also immortalized the moment with a cover story.

Anywhere you look in France these days, Tintin is there, or near by. The publicity offensive is monstrous. Spielberg was in Paris last week to hype up his movie. He was at Gare du Nord on Saturday to send off a specially-decorated Tintin train on the Paris-to-Brussels Thalys line.

If you need to be brought up to speed on the Tintin phenomenon, this is the short version: Created by Belgian comic book artist Hergé, Tintin made his first appearance in 1929. Tintin is a young reporter whose adventures take him and his friends all over the world. His 23 comic book titles have sold anywhere from 200 to 350 million copies worldwide, and have been adapted for TV, radio, theatre, and just about every other medium in every language that exists, including movies. So the Secret of the Unicorn is only a novelty in that it’s Hollywood’s first crack at Tintin, and the flick is signed by living cinema god Spielberg. Tintin has been accurately described as the “world’s most famous Belgian”. Voila.

In France, which counts innumerable legions of intergenerational Tintinophiles, including a parliamentary group (no joke), the movie is one of the most anticipated of the year. The actors who lent their voices and movement to the characters include Jamie Bell (of “Billy Elliot” fame) as Tintin, Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock, and French comedian Gad Elmaleh as the Arab merchant Omar Ben Salaad.

Unsurprisingly, the Thalys train is not the only business cashing in on the Tintin craze sparked by the movie’s release. French auto manufacturer Peugeot has put Tintin at the center of its ad campaign for its Partner Tepee station wagon. French video game maker Ubisoft has launched a Tintin video game to coincide with the film’s opening. There’s a Tintin Happy Meal, and the list goes on.

Here there is excitement, but also some concern, about the movie. Some fearfully wonder if Hollywood’s Tintin will be faithful to Herge’s beloved character. Others hope the movie will help revive the sagging sales of the original comic books. Still a few, with knowledge that Tintin has never really caught on in the US, are horrified by the thought that American children will confuse Spielberg’s movie for the original Tintin, and the Hergé comic books for its derivatives.


Hergé was unequivocal about posthumous additions to the Tintin series: there would be none. Therefore, reincarnations like the movie are really the only way for Tintin to chart off to new adventures. Hollywood may be the best thing ever to happen to Tintin since Snowy. Or the worst.

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Anything to interest young people into reading, even if they may find TinTin to be rather dated is certainly worthwhile.
A very interesting article. I never thought of some of the negatives that come with this movie release, including the original comic books becoming the derivative of the movie for today's kids. That is frightening. However, I feel as though that's not something to worry about too much because of how faithful Spielberg stayed to the original comic book style. He wasn't trying to reimagine the original story entirely, but to tell it just through the art of motion-capture. And even with that, the character designs are surprisingly accurate. It's just wonderful, and as a fan of the original comic books (I've got several of the originals plus I'm stocking up on the volumes being re-released), I'm not worried. :)

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