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The Adventures of Tintin: The Shooting Star (Review)

To celebrate the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn in the United States later this month, I’ll be taking a look at some of nineties animated television show. Check back daily!

Note: This is our review of the animated episode, check out our review of the book here.

I like The Shooting Star. It’s one of the stranger entries in the series, and so it tends to divide fans – much like the equally surreal Flight 714. Part of the reason I enjoy it so much is the wonderful atmosphere Hergé generates early in the story, as if channeling his own fears and uncertainties about a Europe that was (at the time) on the brink of war. I also enjoy the way that the adventure allowed Hergé to cut loose with his imagination – the final few pages allowing the artist to indulge his own zany imagery in a manner similar to the wonderfully odd dream sequences in Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Crab With the Golden Claws. The animated adaptation does a decent job of translating the story from one medium to another, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with it.

Magic mushroom...

I think part of the problem with this story is the fact that the team adapted it into a single half-hour episode, like they did with Tintin in America. That adventure benefited greatly from being trimmed down to fit the format, granting the story a tighter focus and imposing a structure on what had been a disjointed mess. This story, however, actually worked well as a somewhat jumbled little adventure, with the uncertainties reflecting on an increasingly unstable world. In fairness, though, I will concede that there probably wasn’t enough material to really make two full episodes, but there was certainly a little bit more than would easily fit into one – so I can see why this format was chosen.

Still, it means that the story isn’t given quite enough room to breath. In particular, the early sequences feel a little cramped. The sense of fear and dread that Tintin felt as the comet drew ever closer to Earth allowed the author to share his own dread concerning the seemingly inevitable conflict that would soon sweep across Europe. In fact, the opening pages of this adventure are among my favourite sequence in any Tintin book. So there is a definite sense that something has been lost here – to the point where I’d almost argue that you could have extended that sequence over a single episode, allowing the second part to be devoted to the race to the chunk on comet falling to Earth.

Our two stars...

Still, it’s not a bad little adaptation. It’s faithful, and it does the best it can with material in the time afforded. I was, for instance, delighted to see most of the strange stuff on the island animated here – including the iconic exploding mushroom and the giant spider. It’s the kind of imagery one traditionally associates with a bad drug trip, and the team do an impressive job bringing all of it to life. I’ve actually been impressed with how close these stories have managed to stay to Hergé’s original stories, retaining the spirit of his stories in most cases, even while changing minor details.

In that regard, I like the way that the adaptation is careful to define the contest to reach the fallen comet as one between governments and private corporations. For a story written with a palpable fear of an on-coming war, I think it’s touching and important that the scientific expedition to claim the comet wasn’t done on behalf of any state or nation, but on behalf of mankind – with Tintin’s mission seemingly endorsed by all the governments of the world. It’s depressing that this is perhaps the most fantastical element of a story that features giant spiders and exploding mushrooms, but I like it.

A boy and his dog...

Indeed, I’m especially fond of it because it involved Hergé re-writing the original story which saw Tintin competing against Americans to reach the comet first. It’s a somewhat fitting revision to story, as it never felt right to portray the Americans as the villains in any story concerning the Second World War. Tintin always read and watched better when Hergé dealt with politics through analogies rather than concrete examples – particularly when it came to America. After all, I think Tintin in America portrayed a very worrying and narrow perception of the country, as one populated with gangsters and cowboys.

The Shooting Star is a nice little adventure. It doesn’t manage to capture some of the better aspects of Hergé’s original story, but it’s still a solid addition to the animated series.

2 Responses

  1. I noticed that the adaptation kept the villain nameless (his name is contentious in the original because it is Jewish). In the probably unlikely event Peter Jackson uses this story for a Tintin sequel, he would be wise not to use him; instead, use Rastapopoulus. That would be an excellent way to introduce Tintin’s arch-nemesis.

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