“In twenty years from now we will watch movies that star Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood together, you know.”; one of my university professors used to say a long time ago.
“Or you could choose whether you want young John Wayne or old John Wayne.”
”What do you mean?” I asked.
“It’s simple. Using computers; digitally. Just imagine the endless possibilities. You will be able to revive Elvis, Marilyn Monroe or James Dean. Actors will be redundant, and film as we know it won’t exist anymore”.
“I get it”, I said sarcastically, “Oscars for best actors won’t be given to actors but to people who created them”.
“Exactly! Same as we admire the paintings of Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, and not their models.”
TinTin on the Big Screen
What my professor was talking about is precisely what two contemporary movie “painters”, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson have done in The Adventures of Tintin. The movie turned his somewhat sad utopia into reality. Those two are not the first ones to embark on such an adventure, to be honest. Robert Zemeckis, the creator of Forrest Gump and Back to the Future has created three movies that use actors and reality as tools for digitally animated transformations; The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Tintin has managed to go much further. It’s, in a way, an almost perfect movie. It has an interesting storyline, catchy and memorable characters, all scenes are visually remarkable, and the action scenes (and there is many of them) are directed and animated masterfully. The result is a very interesting movie by very interesting filmmakers who deserve our respect and admiration.
Some things should not be changed
There is only one problem though: the movie isn’t good. If you asked the fans of the classic comic book after which the movie was made, by Belgian Georges Prosper (better known as Hergé), they would say that Spielberg’s Tintin is something completely different. The two are miles apart, no matter how hard the authors tried to stay true to the original. Hergé’s drawing, his “clear lines” (ligne claire) become a mess of completely unrecognizable strokes in the digitally animated movie. Instead of creating a visual image that resembles Hergé (which is what they intended) Spielberg and Jackson were following the same process as if they were making The Lord of the Rings or Indiana Jones once again. That would probably be ok if Tintin was a movie with actors and if they were using digital animation for exteriors and some characters that could not exist without it, such as Gollum in LOTR. Digital Gollum functions perfectly because he’s complementing a real, live actor.
The Running Dead
There is no actors in Tintin. All the faces are animated and, even though there’s a refined, subtle stylization, they are basically realistic. Some were modeled after real actors, and all were adjusted to Hergé’s comic heroes. But while Hergé, like the authors in Pixar or Disney, has the freedom to create faces and ambiances as he wishes, Spielberg, the director, and his friend the producer, Peter Jackson, have to respect the reality and animate the faces as if they were of real people. The result looks strange. At times the faces resemble those of robots. They seem empty and dead, even though they run around in endless action scenes. What I find is especially missing something is the eyes. The empty stare the characters have looks scary and makes them seem lifeless. No digital realism can create human eyes that really look alive. If they couldn’t do it with characters from a comic book, how can we expect anyone to digitally replicate Julia Roberts or Al Pacino any time soon? Perhaps my professors utopia is still a long time from coming true.