Tintin: The Video Game and the 3D Movie and Why Leonard Maltin Doesn't Get It

The adventurous young reporter with a tuft of red hair, Tintin, started life in 1929 as a comic strip in a Belgian newspaper. In 2011 the young reporter - having prospered in full comic books, TV, radio, and theater - has expanded his globe-trotting adventuring to new platforms: A video game (see video trailer above) and a 3D film, directed by Steven Spielberg which premiered in Europe on October 22, 2011 and arrived in theaters in the US on December 21, 2011.

This post is about why some critics seem to be missing the virtues of Spielberg's film and about how gaming and filmmaking are converging - using the Tintin video game and 3D movie as examples.

The Tintin video game features many of the locations from the Spielberg film. The bulk of the gameplay is focused on what gamers call "platforming."

In the Tintin game, this means you are primarily in Tintin's shoes, working your way across various platforms - jumping, rolling and bouncing off walls to reach the door to the next area. The narrative of this section of the game (as in the movie) involves traveling the world in an attempt to find a treasure - navigating spaces and battling enemies who also appear in the film. There is also an option that allows users to play timed challenges, such as battles with pirates, that are scored against a clock (as many as possible in a set time). Perhaps the most interesting part of the game is the co-op section - that requires the player to work with a number of characters (each with a special skill) to move through an environment.

To the consternation of some Old World film reviewers, Steven Spielberg's 3D film of TinTin also prizes the giddy thrill of moving through space - and the visual/visceral experiences that 3D animation can provide - over other aesthetic goals.

Predictably, some critics have faulted Spielberg's film of TinTin because it is a spectacle - "a succession of dazzling set pieces devoid of simple feelings."

But the film isn't trying to move viewers in the same ways that some prior Spielberg films have.

Leonard Maltin may claim that "I came to this movie as a blank slate, with no expectations" but his words don't ring true.

It is precisely because Mr. Maltin came burdened with the expectations of traditional narrative - where "you—the reader, or the viewer—are partaking in the venture yourself" - that Mr. Maltin can't appreciate the virtues of Speilberg's cinematic thrill-ride on its own terms.

Speilberg's The Adventures Of Tintin is not a flawed version of E.T. or Close Encounters - it is a 21st Century form of motion picture experience based on entirely different goals.

As Professor Henry Jenkins explained in his essay, Game design as Narrative Architecture: "Spatial stories are not badly constructed stories; rather, they are stories which respond to alternative aesthetic principles, privileging spatial exploration over plot development."

Criticizing The Adventures Of Tintin - a product of new technology and convergence culture - based on the standards of 20th Century cinema, is a bit like saying that comic books lack the emotional engagement of Tolstoy.

Mr. Maltin can't appreciate a "propulsive, nonstop videogame-like experience without letup," but does he realize that he sounds about as relevant as my grandpa (criticizing rock and roll) when he says it?

No comments:

Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.