Published on October 21st, 2019 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
Where’s Our Tintin Sequel?
It’s been eight years since they made a Tintin movie. Our writer, Kim, who grew up on the books, asks — where’s my Tintin sequel?
Billions of blistering blue barnacles! Where is my Tintin sequel?
It’s been nearly eight years since Tintin debuted on the big screen, a movie that ended with the promise of more adventures to come and yet, here I sit, Tintin-less, and I’m as angry as a drunken old sea dog. I’m also confused, because Tintin handily meets sequel requirements. Those requirements include: is there enough material; is there enough interest; can it make money?
You’re either a Tintin fan reading this, well versed in the details of the 24 serialized books, or just curious enough to find out what I’m so angry about. This is a curious and explorative look at the unique world of Tintin, and begs the questions, can more sequels be made in today’s climate of franchise expectations?
To begin with, for those of you who did not grow up reading Tintin, it started in 1927 as a comic strip, published daily/weekly the way some of you read Garfield in the newspaper. That means it took writer/artist Herge 46 years to complete his works the way you know them today. I couldn’t explain it with more clarity and brevity than Tintinologist (yes, that’s a real thing) Numa Sadoul: In Tintin, Hergé distilled 50 years of politics, wars and daily life. Cars, trains and planes…businessmen, dictators and scientists. You can trace the history of the 20th century through Tintin’s adventures. You’ll find strange things, too. Paranormal experiences, dreams, frightening things.
So the first requirement is fulfilled; there is plenty of material. The books literally provide step-by-step guidance for stories in temples, tombs, jungles, space exploration, Eastern-block spy thrillers, hallucinogenic fever-dreams, treasure hunting and kidnapping rescues — just to name a few. If you’ve never picked up a Tintin adventure, do it now! You don’t have to read it, just look. The panels are bursting with incredible details, each frame a story in itself. So, material to work with? Check.
The second requirement demands a fan base to support further movies. The Tintin books have been published in 72 languages around the world and have been adapted for radio, television, theatre and film. Producer Peter Jackson grew up a massive fan of both Tintin adventures and Steven Spielberg movies, while Spielberg only discovered Tintin during a press tour for Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. He soon acquired the rights and would wait patiently for technology and opportunity to create the perfect storm, thereby fulfilling his old promise to Tintin creator Hergé, who once said that Spielberg was, “the only person who could ever do Tintin justice.” Amongst the world-wide, multi-lingual audience are two of the most successful, influential and resourceful film-makers in the world. Second requirement for a sequel; check.
And the third requirement is also met. The 2011 adventure made roughly 3x its budget and won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film (the first non-Pixar movie to do so). Interestingly, foreign box office contributed 80% of the over-all earnings. Not only are the three sequel requirements met, but the core material is revolving around the adventures of a character that is parts Indiana Jones, Sherlock Homes, and MacGyver, but also has elements of a gum-shoe detective in old film noir. So, with all these amazing ingredients, why is nothing being cooked in the kitchen?
There are elements that are not ideal for our modern times, and perhaps that is stalling production. Here are a few thoughts:
Tintin is a world-famous reporter, but he is only 17-20 years old, and seems to put in less time at the newspaper than Clark Kent. Tintin circles the globe, cracking drug-smuggling rings, thwarting kidnappings, and decoding clues that lead to lost treasure. Then, apparently, he writes the frontpage article and sells it to the newspapers. But there is something even stranger — no female characters. Not zero, but out of the hundreds of characters in thousands of scenes in all of the Tintin books, I can name all the women. Opera singer Bianca Castafiore and her maid, Irma; Peggy Alcazar (General Alcazar’s wife), and Mrs. Finch, who was to Tintin as Mrs. Hudson was to Sherlock Holmes. Bianca Castafiore is by far the most prominent female character and she is shrill, pompous and unaware of just about everything around her. Peggy Alcazar is always wearing hair-rollers and screaming at her husband. Aside from this, there is little involvement of female characters, and Tintin himself shows no signs of romantic interest. It’s as though love and family don’t exist in this universe. Tintin is as void of sexuality as Morrissey and has no parents, no siblings, no school chums, no history. Neither does Captain Haddock — he’s apparently not even divorced. And so it goes for all the characters. They just exist with no family or back story.
As Tintin was written from the late 20s to mid-70s, there are also questionable representations of race. At times it is reflectively insensitive or offensive, and earlier this year a Chapters bookstore in Winnipeg temporarily removed one Tintin title from shelves (Tintin in America) due to a few calls and e-mails that expressed concerns of racism. If Apu from the Simpsons is going to be challenged as racist, Tintin may have a lot to answer for. And without being dismissive, I’m going to put a positive spin on those concerns: As a kid reading these books, I was able to see things I didn’t like — uncomfortable and inaccurate (by my experience) depictions of indigenous people, Asians and other people of colour — and, having all those different friends in elementary school, I was able to dismiss the books as wrong without avoiding the topic altogether. It allowed me to be challenged and make the call that, no, those images and insinuations are not okay by me. But these scenes were only a small part of the total books, and we were soon back to detective stories and adventure. Hergé hardly traveled outside his native Belgium. His perceptions of how things were half a world away came from books and magazines and library research. He saw what those sources told him foreign cultures were like and assumed them to be true without actually visiting many of the places or people he wrote about. And if Tintin is to continue on the silver screen, we can simply adapt to modern and more sensitive portraits of anything Hergé ignorantly misrepresented.
But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yeah, my damn sequel! I’m still convinced there is room out there for two more of these to complete the standard trilogy. After seeing Joker last weekend (see Craig Silliphant’s excellent summary), I can tell you that while it looked amazing and I enjoyed it, I walked out thinking I didn’t really need that movie. It didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know or assume about the Joker (that fellow is a real kook). It came across as just another cover song that ‘wasn’t bad.’ It’s certainly produced and presented in a manner outside the current superhero universe, but it’s also a part of the comic book world and could never escape that label. If we really want something beyond the redundant, something more creative and fresh than we’ve had the last decade (without, of course, Big Studio risking the venture of original, untested material) Tintin is our man. I’m not ready to give up on the enthusiasm that Spielberg and Jackson and their crew poured into the first installment, and hope we have more adventures to enjoy — sooner than later.