At age 65 with two Best Director Academy Awards and a resume filled with some of the most iconic films of the last 40 years, Steven Spielberg wouldn't seem to have any firsts left to accomplish as a director.
''The Adventures of Tintin'' is a twofer - his first animated feature and his first film using 3D technology.
Here Spielberg is seduced by the same motion capture style of animation that has infatuated Robert Zemeckis (''The Polar Express,'' ''A Christmas Carol'').
The best thing about motion capture animation is how realistic it is.
The worst thing about motion capture animation is how realistic it is.
''The Adventures of Tintin'' proves this once again.
WHAT: ''The Adventures of Tintin''
STARS: The voices of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
STORYLINE: Young journalist Tintin sets out to solve the mystery of hidden treasure while being chased by thieves.
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
RATING: PG for adventure action violence, drunkenness and brief smoking
It's easier to suspend disbelief with animation, even in the photorealistic work of Pixar, because the protagonists of its movies usually are toys or monsters or fish or vehicles. We don't expect realism.
Motion capture, a technique where computer animators essentially work over footage shot with actual actors, comes amazingly close to the real thing, so close that there are times in ''Tintin'' where viewers might forget they are watching a cartoon.
But other times the limitations of the developing art form fall short. The eyes aren't as dead as those in ''The Polar Express'' but they're not quite right either. And Tintin's dog Snowy, while adorable, looks somewhat rudimentary, like the bad CGI Scooby Doo in the live action movies.
Things like that pull the viewer out of the movie and they stand out more because it is flawless so often.
Watching ''Tintin'' I found myself wishing Spielberg had tried to do it as a live action movie, but that might have been cost-prohibitive, considering some of the elaborate chase sequences.
Scrappy young journalist Tintin and his adventurous pooch Snowy are beloved characters in Europe thanks to Herge, a Belgian illustrator who produced two dozen graphic novels featuring the characters until his death in 1983. And the movie already has grossed more than $240 million overseas.
The film combines elements of three Tintin tales, ''The Crab with the Golden Claws,'' ''The Secret of the Unicorn'' and ''Red Rackham's Treasure.''
When Tintin buys a model ship at a street fair, he becomes the target of thieves who believe it contains a clue to a hidden treasure. Tintin sets out to solve the mystery himself with the help of Captain Haddock, a drunken ship's captain whose family is connected to the treasure.
Spielberg discovered Tintin late in life, but the character is a spiritual comrade to his ''Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,'' the television spinoff of the ''Raiders of the Lost Ark'' saga. And the epic battles and chases connected with the search for treasure will make ''Raiders" comparisons inevitable. A drunken, charismatic sea captain adds a whiff of ''Pirates of the Caribbean'' to the mix.
Haddock is played by Andy Serkis, who continues to do impressive work in movies where the audience never gets to see him. He makes Gollum as believable as the live actors in the ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy, and his work as the ape Caesar in ''Rise of the Planet of the Apes'' has folks lobbying for him to receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination (check out the movie ''Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,'' where he plays punk icon Ian Dury, for proof that he's just as capable when he's actually on camera).
Haddock outshines the title character, who is earnest and likable as voiced by Jamie Bell (''Billy Elliot'') but not particularly charismatic. The performance might work better with audiences that already have an emotional connection to the character.
As for the 3D, the choice seems to be more of a business decision than an artistic one. The technology adds little to the enjoyment of the action and isn't worth the added expense.