Four months ago, we were raving about Andy Serkis stealing the spotlight from James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes—and did we mention that he did this while playing the titular ape? Now, the immensely talented motion-capture actor rounds out 2011 by yet again garnering more attention than his younger counterpart. In Steven Spielberg‘s The Adventures of Tintin, Andy plays the hapless, perpetually drunk Captain Haddock, the unlikely ally to the film’s supposed star Tintin (Jamie Bell). But consensus, drawn from other reviews as well as my own thoughts on this fun movie, are that Andy was way better than Jamie.
And he made these slam dunks against younger, hotter actors without ever showing his face.
The movie is filled in that often-creepy style of motion capture, where actors wear little tracking tags on their faces and bodies while they act, so that the animators can later layer over the CGI character’s skin and features. Unlike The Polar Express, neither actor matches his respective character; however, Tintin comes across as bland while Haddock is raucously funny but still grave and scared and angry.
Is it fair to say that Andy has had much more practice, which is why Haddock seemed to possess five times the number of expressions that Jamie’s Tintin had? The photo above is of the two of them during shooting; it’s unclear if they were actually filming a scene when it was taken, but Jamie seems stiff and nervous, Andy much more at ease. After all, he’s a old pro, one of the only pros really, of this technology. Here’s the two of them on the big screen:
Jamie shouldn’t feel bad; in fact, he’s joined some pretty distinguished company, as one of many actors whose pathos pales in comparisons to Andy’s CGI creations. You’ve got Naomi Watts in King Kong, James and Freida Pinto in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and I’d venture to say even Elijah Wood in The Lord of the Rings.
In a recent interview with Moviefone, Jamie acknowledged that he was going into the whole motion-capture thing blind and that Andy’s work is really intimidating:
I think I was genuinely distracted a lot of the time just because of how good that guy is. Knowing Andy before we made the movie, knowing what he’s capable of, knowing his embodiment of character, knowing that he is just an unbelievably talented individual, just was distracting! But, perfect casting for this kind of role. When you work with a master of things, I genuinely think asking questions is wrong.
Ironically, Jamie and Andy worked together before in 2005′s King Kong, where Andy embodied the titular ape and Jamie was the “wild” crew member Jimmy, who tried to take him down.
There are flickers of good chemistry between the two characters — like when a misunderstanding prompts Tintin to share how he really feels about Haddock’s drinking — but in most scenes I found my eyes pulled away from Tintin’s open, inquisitive face to Haddock’s weathered, suspicious one.
CNN seems to agree with me, writing in their review, Jamie Bell’s Tintin is fine, but as fans will know, it’s the redoubtable dipsomaniac Captain Haddock who keeps the show ticking over. TribToday adds, Haddock outshines the title character, who is earnest and likable as voiced by Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) but not particularly charismatic.
All this is not to say that Jamie Bell was somehow lacking, but rather, Andy Serkis just cannot be stopped. Not only was he savvy enough to get in on a new technology when it was still nascent, but he’s created truly memorable characters through mo-cap. Imagine not having Gollum from Lord of the Rings as we know him! Would you really have sympathized with the rebellious apes if Andy as Caesar had not been slowly teaching them how to overthrow their human captors?
Andy Serkis doesn’t deserve an Oscar for his role in Tintin; the movie was fun but not transcendental. However, this man deserves an Oscar, no matter what.