As you know from my review, Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” delivered the goods at yesterday’s first international press screening — while one or two broadsheet critics have been sniffy about the mo-cap technology, it’s fair to say the outlook is bright for a film that Paramount was cautious about promoting. Though the film perhaps faces more cultural hurdles across the pond, I’m confident the US reception will be equally healthy ahead of its December opening.
All of which makes “Tintin” an intriguing wild card in terms of its awards potential. We don’t know yet where the Academy’s animation branch will land on the film, or how grudgingly they might treat it even if it is ruled eligible for the animated feature Oscar. And its proximity to Spielberg’s “War Horse” on the US release calendar raises interesting questions: previously positioned as the appetizer to the live-action epic, what if the animated film is better received? Will they find themselves duelling for a spot in certain technical categories, or could there be room for both? Could “Tintin” even be — gasp — the Best Picture nominee nobody saw coming?
Obviously, I’m getting ahead of myself — the Academy could just as easily view the film as a purely commercial play and sideline it altogether. So if there’s any one category where I feel somewhat comfortable predicting a nomination, it’s in Best Original Score. 45-time nominee John Williams is always a tough man to bet against, particularly for a well-liked film, and I’m sure the music branch would be glad to welcome him back after the longest Oscar hiatus of his career. (It’s been six years, though only one score, since his last brace of nominations — for “Munich” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”)
Of course, 13 of Williams’s nominations in the score category have come for Spielberg films: their last collaboration, on “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was a rare miss with the Academy, and the film’s moderate reception surely probably played into that. This is one category, moreover, where “Tintin” doesn’t have to worry too much about competing with “War Horse”: Williams has a long history of scoring twin nominations in one year.
But what of the score itself? Well, you can listen for yourself: German site Cinema Musica posted a large selection of “Tintin” score samples recently, all available here.
Even out of context, you can probably tell from the samples that this is, most unmistakably, a John Williams creation: he’s in typically boisterous high-adventure form, and while it’s far from his most distinctive work, he’s clearly having a good time with it. I particularly like the slinky jazz of the opening-credits theme, most reminiscent of my favorite latter-day Williams score, “Catch Me If You Can”; if the busier orchestrations are sometimes over-egged in the film, there’s still something comforting about their old-school roar.
Williams has been Oscar-nominated for some far less enjoyable boilerplate scores in his day; I don’t see much of a case for him to miss here. Take a listen, and tell us what you think.