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Boys and Their Toys

Weta Digital/Paramount Pictures

Watching “The Adventures of Tintin” reminds you that modern entertainment is increasingly driven by each move forward in technology. Images of Steven Spielberg directing scenes from his latest all-action adventure with what appears to be an oversize PlayStation controller only go to emphasize the point.

The shark may have almost driven him mad, but Mr. Spielberg’s career is littered with each leap forward in cinematic wizardry. Not to accuse such a visionary of standing on the shoulders of giants, but where would “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” be without the work of John Dykstra on “Star Wars” and “Battlestar Galactica”? Where would “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” have been without animatronics? What would “Jurassic Park” have looked like without the generational leaps in C.G.I.? And “Tintin” — well, if that doesn't owe a massive debt of thanks to Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron, then I don't know what does.

The possible truth is that Mr. Spielberg has always had fabulous stories to tell, but has had to wait for someone to invent a way to do it before he was able to tell them. But it does beg the question that is posed by many of the slurry of 3-D movies hitting our cinemas in recent history: Should you do something just because you can?

Peter Jackson’s career comes from humbler beginnings, achieving cult status with his unique brand of ultra-gory, tongue-in-cheek horror. It is a strange line to follow, from low-budget schlock through intense drama “Heavenly Creatures” into one of the biggest franchises this side of the boy Potter. It would appear from the documentaries and interviews of that time that “The Lord of the Rings” was a passion project for Mr. Jackson — a personal work. Mr. Jackson, like other pioneers before him, developed and created new ways to bring Middle Earth to life; and in the same way that Mr. Spielberg’s partner in crime, George Lucas, created Industrial Light & Magic, Mr. Jackson brought Weta Digital into being to make his vision happen. Weta is now one of the leading special effects studios in the world, and a testament to what can be achieved when needs must.

Messrs. Spielberg and Jackson coming together to work on “Tintin” feels like a natural partnership. Both want to tell simple stories in a big way; both are pushing — or riding — the cutting edge of filmmaking; and both seemingly have that childlike imagination. An unwillingness to properly grow up pervades many of their films.

Mr. Spielberg has always had a fascination with childhood fantasies, and the child's perspective; “E.T.,” “Empire of the Sun,” “Jurassic Park”; and Mr. Jackson is showing signs of the same proclivity with “The Lovely Bones” and “Tintin.” Maybe this caused them to gravitate towards each other, gathering around them the other coolest kids on the block: Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. You can imagine them all sniggering in the corner of the playground as they plan their next adventure.

“Tintin” is a theme-park ride of a movie. You step off breathless and a little shaken. You know you’ve had your senses blasted with a wall of spinning color and visual flair; but do you really feel any sense of satisfaction, or just the thrill of making it to the other side?

Boys and their toys — It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


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