We finally got around to watching this film today.
The plot is that young ace reporter Tintin buys an old ship model, in which is concealed one of three scrolls which give the coordinates to a treasure hidden by an old sea captain. A bad guy is trying to get his hands on all three scrolls, and has Tintin kidnapped, believing he has the scroll on him, but he does not--it had earlier been lifted by a pickpocket, who turns out to be a compulsive wallet-stealer. The wallet is later returned to Tintin by a pair of identical, inept police detectives.
On board the ship, Tintin meets the last living descendant of the sea captain who drew up the scrolls, and after much mayhem, they find their way to North africa, to try to head off the bad guy, who wants to steal the third model ship (and its scroll) from a sultan. The scrolls, when lined up together, show the coordinates for the treasure. The bad guy turns out to be a descendant of the pirate who took the sailing vessel, which was then sunk by the sea captain.
The bad guy, Sakharin, is on the brink of finding the treasure when Tintin and Captain Haddock ambush him with INTERPOL. Sakharin and Captain Haddock duel with shipyard cranes, then swords, the way their ancestors had done. Tintin grabs the scrolls just as Sakharin is about to burn them, and Haddock punches him and knocks him off the ship into the water, where he is caught by the police.
Tintin and Haddock then follow the coordinates on the scrolls and locate the treasure hidden in an old globe in the cellar of the Haddock family mansion, Marlinspike Hall (whick Sakharin had recently purchased). With a hatful of gold coins, they also find a map leading to where the Unicorn had gone down, with the rest of the treasure.
Now, this film is visually stunning, especially if you know anything about CGI animation. It's so realistic it crosses into the Uncanny Valley, but only when the characters have enlarged noses--otherwise, you can forget you're watching CGI animation. The water, the clouds, the tiny details of costume and hair and lighting set pieces are really astounding.
The big problem is that this film just feelas like it goes on FOR EVER. I was amazed to learn it was only 1.45 hours long--it felt like I'd been watching it for twice that long. And oddly, it's the action sequences that seem to drag it down for me. The interplay between the characters is good and engaging, but the drawn-out chase sequences just seem to go on forever--and also to suspend the laws of physics, that the film otherwise had been obeying faithfully. There are some parts, like when Haddock has to climb outside a seaplane to belch into the fuel tank, his alcoholic breath being sufficient to give the engine a little more boost to get to shore, that had me saying "Oh, PLEASE!"
The film almost seems like a proof-of-concept for Speilberg, that it's entirely possible to make a realistic film with motion capture CGI.
There are some good gags in the film, and of course, a tank--it wouldn't be a Speilberg film without a tank--and Scott pointed out that it felt a lot like "Young Indiana Jones." And we both wondered whether Sakharin was meant to look like Speilberg himself.
But mostly, it's just sumptuous to look at, if you're an animation junkie like me.