Reel Critics: 'Tintin' full of wild adventures

Steven Spielberg made his first big splash in the churning waters of action films with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1981.

Thirty years later, he recreates the same high energy and wild escapades in "The Adventures of Tintin." The title character is a smart, courageous teenaged news reporter from the popular Belgian comic book series that began in 1929.

The exploits begin with outstanding opening credits that outline the story. Spielberg wastes no time by throwing Tintin into the first of many wild adventures.

They take the young hero and his trusty dog on a treasure hunt with a drunken sea captain. The animated special effects create crazy roller coaster rides around the globe. They eclipse anything that Indiana Jones could do in live action.

The plot has enough mystery, danger and thrills to make it a little too scary for younger children. But there's enough good humor to give it a wholesome, old-fashioned feel for older kids and their parents. With Spielberg at the helm, you know it will entertain the target audience.


'War Horse'

The film adaptation of the Broadway smash "War Horse" has Spielberg's signature all over it.

This story of a young lad and his horse is a sweeping epic filled with gorgeous English country scenery, animals with human-like characteristics and mildly menacing villains — all turned upside down by the gruesome horrors of World War I.

It's "Lassie Come Home" with an extraordinary chestnut thoroughbred instead of a dog.

This is old-fashioned storytelling at its best, but I do wish Spielberg would trust us to enjoy his films on their own merits without pounding every tender moment into our heads with overly grand music (courtesy again of John Williams), corny dialogue and contrived sunsets.

I'd still choke up at the ending — perhaps even more — without being reminded to do so.


'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'

The opening credits to "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" are as enigmatic and ominous as its heroine, Lisbeth Salander. With her punk hair, body art and piercings, she is every inch the tiny terror.

As a huge fan of the original Swedish "Millennium" trilogy, I was skeptical of this English-language remake. Director David Fincher is respectful of the material and has cast his leads admirably — the tautly elegant Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard are perfect.

Rooney Mara (unrecognizable from her brief opening scene in Fincher's "The Social Network") delivers a gutsy performance as Lisbeth, although her character is less fearsome than the amazing Noomi Rapace in the original film.

For one thing, she talks too much — which somehow dilutes her character's mystery and menace. Give me more of those withering stares.

"Dragon Tattoo" is a tense thriller with themes of sexual violence. Fincher's version didn't leave me as impatient for the next installment, but I will definitely see it.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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