The first movie based on Hergé's character Tintin begins when Temistocle Paparanic, an old friend of Captain Haddock, dies and he inherits Paparanic's ship, "La Toison d'or" or "The Golden Fleece". Tintin and Haddock travel to Istanbul to collect it, only to find that its a worthless-looking wreck. However, soon a certain Anton Karabine offers him 600,000 pounds for it. When Haddock refuses to sell, he's nearly killed. After a while, the truth comes out: Paparanic and his crew led a coup in Tetaragua, a small Latin-American country. After ruling the country for three years, Paparanic left with the gold of the National Bank, and now his old shipmates are to trying get hold of it. Written by
Jonathan D. H. Parshall <email@example.com>
I have been a fan of Tintin for almost all of my life, having read every book (including Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin in the Congo, and Tintin and the Alph-Art). While I did enjoy the Spielberg/Jackson film, it lacked the proper feel of a Tintin album. There was too much action and too many special effects, despite having great talent. That is where this movie, Tintin et le Mystere de la Toison d'Or (Tintin and the Golden Fleece) succeeds, and does so dramatically.
The plot is simple, and familiar to those who have read Tintin before. A friend of Captain Haddock, Paparanic, dies, and leaves in his will a ship named the Golden Fleece. Tintin and Captain Haddock go to Istanbul to collect it. But it's a rusty old bucket, as Haddock might have said, and he plans to sell it. A man named Karabine claims he is an old friend of Paparanic and offers a small fortune for the boat. Tintin is suspicious and declines the offer. Then the threats come and it seems that a group of people will stop at nothing to have the ship in their hands. The ship, Tintin reasons, must be hiding something, and he intends to find out.
Firstly, the characters. Jean-Pierre Talbot is, essentially, Tintin. He embodies the character perfectly and brings the athleticism and energy needed for the role, natural considering he was a personal trainer at the time. Captain Haddock, played by the well-known, BAFTA-nominated Georges Wilson, may have one of the most unreal beards in the history of film, but that is part of the charm. He also is cast superbly, with the gruffness needed for the role and also the heart of Captain Haddock (as evidenced by the scene where he speaks to the portrait of his dead friend. Calculus has very little to do but makes the most of his screen time with a nice invention and a connection to the ship's parrot, and Thomson and Thompson, incognito, have a few good scenes, and also fit the role perfectly. One cannot forget Snowy, who is ideal and looks perfect. The casting is so excellent it feels like the characters walked of the pages of Herge's albums. The rest of the cast includes, Dario Moreno, the Turkish singer, as one of Paparanic's old shipmates, and, happily, Marcel Bozzuffi as the secondary villain, who you may recognize from The French Connection, who has a very nice fight with Talbot.
It is one thing to have perfect characterizations, but the Golden Fleece succeeds where almost all other Tintin movies have failed by capturing the spirit of Tintin. Spielberg and Jackson had the right ideas in mind (particularly, I think, Jackson) but the action is too over-stated and the movie as a whole opts for grandness when subtlety would have done much better. The climactic crane fight at the end of that film was fine when assumed as a modern-day version of a sword fight, but Tintin's villains were not brought to justice by shipyard equipment or the equivalent; they were captured by gunpoint, traps, or by sheer coincidence. The same goes for the rest of Spielberg's creation. Laying waste to a city is surely not Tintin's style. Tintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece is so much better because it understands this and seeks to make itself like a Tintin album. The story is light yet intimate, well-paced and simple, and virtually eliminates all exposition (although for the mass of people who were assumed to never have read Tintin before, Spielberg had to accommodate, naturally). Most importantly, the direction is absolutely dynamic. The camera-work is exactly as it would be in a Tintin book. It is again simple, with little weight, and to the point. There is little trickery, little grandiosity, unless it is necessary: as Herge did with his landscapes, so Istanbul is portrayed from overhead for a while, but even then non-pretentiously. Although the movie lacks some subtleties that only Herge could have created, it ticks all of the other boxes. Thankfully, an excellent release came out on DVD not too long ago. The picture is very clear, clearer than any other version I have seen. And the sound is better, which is just as well because the music is also fantastic in this. This is a must-see for any Tintin fan, casual or Tintinologist. Also worth watching is the slightly less excellent sequel, Tintin et les Oranges Bleues (Tintin and the Blue Oranges), also with Jean- Pierre Talbot.
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