Overall Impression – Yet another film that isn’t quite sure who the main character is.


Who’s your main character? – Should be Tintin, however from about the end of act 1 the film becomes all about Captain Haddock.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Depends on who the “he” is.  If Tintin, all he really has is a ‘professional’ story which is to solve the mystery of the ship, the Unicorn. If one considers Haddock the main character then he shares the same professional story as Tintin while his ‘personal’ story is how he’s trying to sober himself up and straighten his life around.  His ‘private’ story is to measure up to his illustrious forebear, Sir Francis Haddock.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Sakharine

What happens if he fails? – Both Tintin and Haddock will likely die, killed by Sakharine.


Orphan – Tintin is an apparent orphan, but a very self-actualized one.  Haddock has been abandoned by his crew and is truly all alone in life.

Wanderer – Tintin gets the parchments and sets out to find the missing one.  In his journey he finds Haddock locked in his cabin aboard his ship.

Warrior – Tintin and Haddock fight to escape, fight to find the third piece of the clue, and then fight to keep it and use it.

Martyr – Tintin doesn’t really sacrifice anything (if memory serves me correctly.)  Haddock gives up his boozing and decides to step up and risk everything to reclaim the honor of his family.


Tintin is a kid who gets beat up by adults, shot at by adults, shoots at adults, acts like an adult by having a dangerous job, is familiar to Interpol, lives on his own, and doesn’t seem to have any parents anywhere.  Kids-as-adults is a staple in kids’ movies, but that only goes so far.  It’s hard for an audience not to squirm when watching a 15 or 16 year old being assaulted with everything from fists to flashlights.  C’mon!  Stop hitting that kid!

The Adventures of Tintin struggles to overcome the obstacle of having a picture-perfect teen, operating in an adult world, as the main character by shifting focus to Haddock.  Haddock is a drunken, slovenly adult.  You can hit the poor bastard as much as you want.   Compared to Tintin, Haddock is a smorgasbord of dramatic potential.  He’s got a past, he’s far from perfect,  he’s got an ax to grind and a grudge to avenge.  He’s a perfect main character; damaged, haunted, and with hidden dignity waiting to be brought to the surface.  There’s just one problem: everyone wants to be Tintin and nobody wants to be Haddock.

In a film like this, the audience wants and needs a wish fulfillment.  Everyone wishes they were brave, resourceful, daring, and smart.  Nobody wishes they were drunken and damaged.  Shifting the focus from Tintin to Haddock makes a certain amount of dramatic sense when considering the lack of gravitas a teen boy has and the amount of jeopardy one can put the teen into and get away with.  However the title of the film is The Adventures of Tintin, not The Misadventures of Captain Haddock.   It’s Tintin’s journey people want to go on.  And not in service of Haddock’s journey, either.

— Jeffrey Alan Schechter


  1. David Goulet January 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    I grew up reading the Tintin books. For me he was clearly a young adult not a kid. Why they decided to make him younger in the film is very odd. Tintin was also a series about travel and adventure for a time period when most people didn’t travel beyond their home town and there weren’t 24/7 travel channels or the internet. As such how do you really capture that magic for a modern audience? Some classics just don’t age well. Tintin and Tarzan have a lot to talk about.

  2. Neil Lawson-May July 25, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    A spot on analysis. The film is technically brilliant and has some great set pieces and moments of humour but, as you say, has an emotional hole at the centre. Tin Tin in Tibet is a marvelous stage version sponsored by the Barbican in London that sometimes has a revival. Here Tin Tin is fighting to save his friend who is lost in the Himalaya and the story arc centres on Tin Tin and his emotional journey (it’s his fault that his friend is lost) rather than Haddock – it’s sensational theatre.

  3. dave August 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    I think that Tintin is the protagonist and Haddock is the main character. Tintin has the goal and Haddock has the character arc. Most stories have a traditional “hero” where they are both the main character and the protagonist with the goal but there are stories that have a protagonist and a seperate main character. Look at Shawshank Redemption. Andy has the goal but Red has the character arc(believe in hope.)

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