The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is the first of three planned “performance capture” 3D adaptations of the Belgian comic books from Steven Spielberg. It is released in the UK on October 26, and is already generating a lot of eager fanboy anticipation in this country because of the involvement of our own Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish in the script department, and the presence of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the cast. The reason I bring it up here, two months before its release, is because of a conversation I overheard on Tuesday morning, around 10.15am.
I was in the Odeon, Leicester Square, waiting for the press screening of Cowboys & Aliens to start. Produced by Spielberg, it is very much this week’s blockbuster, with a huge budget, high concept and heavyweight cast (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford; James Bond and Indiana Jones). Its budget, just so you know, is estimated at $163 million. I’m not going to review it here, as the quality of the film is not the point. This is the point: I always sit by myself at press screenings, partly because, as a part-time film critic, I exist only on the periphery of the London film critics’ circle. I drop in and out of their conclave as and when I am required. I actively avoid getting caught up conversation at the croissants table, chiefly because I will only ever have seen a fraction of the films the rest of them have seen, so feel inadequate. But I overhear them, and all they talk about is the films they have seen.
This is understandable; it’s what they have in common, whether jaded, pot-bellied old veteran from one of the nationals, or eagerly panting nerd from a magazine or website. I respect their devotion to duty. If one day a newspaper invites me to be its film critic, I might find out what it’s like on the inside. For now, I’m on the outside. On Tuesday morning, I overheard a group of young men having the standard conversation. In the half-light of the auditorium, I couldn’t see who they were, but detected the “nerd” end of the spectrum in their very male enthusiasm for Big Films. They swapped opinions about Captain America and Super 8 and other recent Hollywood blockbusters. This was their area – either by choice or because that’s what the publications they write for are focussed on. Cowboys & Aliens was right up their alley. Me? I’m nearly always disappointed by blockbusters – as indeed I was disappointed by Cowboys & Aliens. Now, I’m not saying for a minute that these young men had no critical faculties – indeed, one of them deemed Captain America to be “lacking something.” They were just catching up. They made me feel antisocial.
Anyway, looking ahead at the slate, the most vociferous of the three – the one leaning over the other two from the row in front, always an alpha position in such situations – made this chilling observation:
There’s nothing now until Tintin.
There’s nothing now until Tintin. There’s nothing. Nothing of note to get excited about at the cinema between the penultimate week of August and the last week of October. I caught his drift. He means there are no Hollywood blockbusters between now and Tintin. Nothing with a budget north of $150 million, big stars and bigger special effects. Nothing in 3D. Nothing with Spielberg’s name on it. Nothing designed to appeal to the broadest international audience possible, at a split of roughly 40% domestic (ie. American) and 60% “Rest of the World” (self-explanatory), which is pretty much the ratio of a global hit these days.
In fact, just as there are eight films released in the UK this week, if you include the reissue of Kind Hearts and Coronets, there are eight films released in the UK next week, and a massive 14 the week after. It’s starting to add up, isn’t it? Some of them are bigger than others – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on September 16 looks pretty big, although it’s not quite Cowboys & Aliens or Captain America – but what’s thrilling is that so many films are being released: documentaries, foreign-language films of every stripe, indies, British thrillers, reissues of West Side Story and Kes … No offence to Tintin, which I’m looking forward to as well, but I’d like to make this controversial statement:
There’s loads until Tintin.
Let us not measure out our lives, professional or personal, in Hollywood blockbusters. That way lies crushing disappointment and sore eyes from the 3D glasses.