Last night the AFI festival hosted the first public screening of director Steven Spielberg‘s The Adventures of Tintin. Or, that is to say, the first public screening in America – the film has been open outside of the U.S. for more than a month, and has already made over $100 Million internationally.  Spielberg’s first animated/motion-captured film, it stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in an adventure story where Tintin comes across clues to pirate treasure. We’ll have a longer review when the film is released, but check out our quick thoughts…

Though much lighter and much more kid-centric than the Indiana Jones films, Tintin was approached by Spielberg from a child’s perspective, and so Tintin (played by Jamie Bell) is much gentler and far less quotable than Indy. That’s not a knock on the film, merely an acknowledgement that those looking for Raiders redux will be disappointed. That said, it’s also a better action movie than the last Indy adventure, and maybe a little better than Last Crusade.  Untethered from cranes or having to worry about where the camera is, Spielberg’s visual panache is unmatched, and there is an extended one shot action set piece that validates his decision to do this animated. If W.C. Fields complained about working with children and animals (Tintin has a charming dog named Snowy), Spielberg’s found the best workaround.

And when Spielberg removed guns from E.T. for the special edition, there was a worry that he had gotten a little soft. So when Tintin goes for a gun early on there’s a slight transgressive thrill – and Tintin uses that gun from time to time (that said, never at people). Though it takes a while to get going, once the adventure starts, the film becomes nearly non-stop action as Tintin is kidnapped and sent to the Middle East where the evil Sakharine (Daniel Craig) has both Tintin and Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) held hostage in the hopes of uncovering pirate treasure. Tintin escapes with Haddock and they must figure out the secret of his lineage.

Though the script by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish is solid, the real delight here is watching Spielberg play, and though there were definite sequences in his Jurassic Park films that had Spielberg firing on all cylinders, this movie is more consistently entertaining, and Spielberg’s classic cleverness stamps the film repeatedly. A great sequence tends to make me cackle and there are a number here that are awe inspiring in his staging. Seeing Spielberg – one of the greatest living directors – have this much fun is infectious. The Adventures of Tintin opens December 21 stateside and it’s well worth checking out.

Are you excited for Tintin?