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“War Horse” and “Tintin”: The Adventures of Steven Spielberg

December 26, 2011

You hardly ever hear the word adventure used to describe movies anymore. With the advent of “action movies,” a sense of adventure got lost in an ever-expanding fireball. The sensory assaults of Sly, Arnold and their offspring deadened souls just as surely as they killed villains. But there was a time when Hollywood stirred the spirit with genuine thrills, not just “thrill rides.”

Steven Spielberg remembers that era well, and he’s resurrected its exhilarating essence with a pair of films released within days of each other: The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. The first—already a huge hit in Europe, where its titular junior journalist has been wildly popular for decades—uses the latest cinematic technology to spin a good, old-fashioned yarn complete with buried treasure, sunken ships and an adorably heroic dog. Motion-capture photography left me cold in Robert Zemeckis movies like The Polar Express, but Spielberg uses it to concoct sequences that rival his best work in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And like Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Tintin utilizes 3D judiciously, creating a deeper atmosphere rather than brainlessly hurling objects in your face.

This marks the fifth time in Spielberg’s amazingly prolific career that he’s put out two films in the same year, and the general rule is that one is made for commerce (e.g. Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds) and the other is for art’s sake (e.g., Schindler’s List, Munich). While Tintin may not strike gold at the U.S. box office, there’s no question War Horse is one of the most artful films Spielberg has ever made.

I was mesmerized by the Tony-winning Broadway version, which ingeniously used multi-person puppets to depict the horses. If anything, the movie is even more affecting, as it follows Joey’s journey from an English farm to the front lines of World War I. Beautifully photographed and scored by Spielberg’s longtime collaborators Janusz Kaminski and John Williams, War Horse merits its 146-minute running time, building to a climax that will reduce the most hardened equinophobes to tears.

At heart, The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse are simple stories—a boy and his dog and a boy and his horse. By maintaining his boyish sense of wonder, Spielberg may pull off a very grown-up achievement: He could become the first director to win Oscars for Best Picture and Best Animated Film—in the same year, no less. Now, that would be an adventure.

Where do you think Tintin and War Horse rank in the Spielberg canon? Fire away with your comments!

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10 Comments
  1. I havn’t seen Warhorse but Tintin blew me away. I saw it for free because I had won tickets. I didn’t expect much but it was really good, and surprisingly a little more violent than I thought it would be. Great films though.

    • bruceafretts permalink

      I didn’t expect much from Tintin either—the trailer didn’t do much for me. I’m not surprised it’s underperforming at the U.S. box office. I hope people will come out to see War Horse, though.

  2. Because the Academy loves feel good movies, I honestly would not be shocked if War Horse got the win. People could argue the the critics didn’t love it, but often times the critics and Academy entirely disagree with one another.

    Great post! Looking forward to both of the film!

    • bruceafretts permalink

      Thanks, Matt! Let me know what you think of both movies after you see them.

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