It’s Steven Spielberg versus the uncanny valley in Tintin. Spielberg puts up a good fight, but (as usual) the uncanny valley prevails.

Tintin is full of clever action scenes, but clever doesn’t equal thrilling. As I watched the movie, I kept wishing it’d been a live action affair. I was reminded of Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, another flick brimming with clever action. But the Raiders action was also real. I mean, I know Raiders relied on an army of stuntmen (and some editing and camera tricks), but there’s a visceral thrill to be had watching a real guy being dragged behind a real truck on a real road (even if that guy is a trained professional).

I was also reminded of Brad Bird’s recent Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, especially the extremely effective (and extremely insane) Dubai human fly scene.

Speaking of Bird, I think his pals at Pixar would have been a good second choice for Tintin. I prefer their straight-up computer animation to the motion-capture used for Tintin, which combines elements of live action and animation but is less than the sum of its parts. And it also leads to the uncanny valley problem, where everything looks just real enough to seem creepy.

Spielberg is one of the most talented film directors to ever pick up a camera. I wish he’d make another adventure movie that didn’t rely on any computer trickery. He seems to do his most exciting work when he (and his camera and his characters) are forced to obey the laws of physics.

Watched on Jan. 9.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

It’s a shame when a grade-A production is saddled with a grade-D screenplay. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is based on a popular novel, and I can see the story working better in that form. But tedious exposition and shots of people performing Google searches do not a movie make.

The parts of Girl that are actually cinematic are compelling, but those parts are few and far between. I hope the screenwriter of the inevitable sequel (the Girl novel is the first of a trilogy) can figure out how to create a proper screenplay and not just a checklist of plot points from the source material.

Watched on Dec. 31, 2011.

Edit: I’m referring to the recent American remake, not the original European film. Sorry I wasn’t more specific.