Steven Spielberg owed us one. After 2008’s fiercely underwhelming Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, it would have been nice if his next trip to the director’s chair reminded us he’s the same guy that directed E.T. and Jaws.

So he reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a comic book series he first optioned in 1983. And now, more than eighty years after it first arrived, Tintin finally gets its first movie adaptation.

The fictional, early-teen reporter is a nifty mix of Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes, and MacGyver, traveling the world to solve crimes, foil bad guys, and save the day with his trusty sidekick, a fox terrier named Snowy.

After randomly buying a model of a sailing ship, Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell) falls under the watchful eye of a bevy of bad guys, including the shadowy Sakharine (Daniel Craig). Turns out the ship (unbeknownst to Tintin) holds the secret to the whereabouts of sunken pirate treasure.

Eventually Tintin figures out what’s going on and partners up with drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) to foil Sakharine and try to find the treasure himself. Just like that, adventures on the sea, in the air, and on land unfurl like pages from the comic book.

Spielberg, thankfully, has returned to his roots with Tintin; you’ll happily be reminded of The Goonies and Young Indiana Jones throughout. And even though the target audience wasn’t even born when the final Tintin comic was published, older kids will more than enjoy themselves. Teeming with suspense, mayhem, gun fights, fist fights, and even a murder or two, Tintin is exciting, solidly interesting, and innovative.

In the same way that Pixar transformed the animation industry, Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital has done the same for motion capture. Jackson (who produced Tintin) has taken the style-non-grata (remember the almost creepy characters from The Polar Express? And Mars Needs Moms?) and turned it into a force to be reckoned with in the world of animated movies.

Just imagine how much further along the technology will be when the sequel arrives in two or three years.

Talk about treasure.

4/5 stars