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NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Leah0066.

The film opens with a shot of Tintin (Jamie Bell) from behind.  He is being drawn by an artist in the middle of a flea market.  The artist says that Tintin looks familiar, and Tintin replies that he is a journalist.  As the artist works, Tintin’s little white dog Snowy notices a pickpocket moving through the crowd snatching people’s wallets, and begins to follow him.  The artist finishes his sketch and shows it to Tintin – it is an image just like the comic book images of Tintin.  Tintin approves the likeness, and notices that Snowy is missing.  He calls for him, and Snowy returns.  Tintin asks, “Where have you been?” 

Just then, Tintin notices a model ship with a unicorn on its prow.  He is fascinated by it.  He asks the vendor how much for the ship.  The vendor says “Two quid.”  Tintin says, “I can give you a pound,” the vendor says, “Done,” and Tintin takes the ship in his hands.  Just then, a man runs up and asks to buy the ship.  The vendor says he has just sold it to Tintin.  The man offers to pay Tintin double whatever he paid, but Tintin says the ship is not for sale.  The man says that Tintin is about to walk into terrible danger, then he runs away.

A moment later, a second man appears and says he has come to buy the ship.  Tintin again replies that it’s not for sale.  The second man says, “Name your price,” but Tintin is firm and leaves with the ship.  The man asks the vendor “Who was that?”  The vendor says, “Everyone knows him, that’s Tintin.”

Back at home, Tintin is curious why everyone is so interested in the model ship.  He takes it into his study to examine it.  His study is hung with framed clippings from all the news stories Tintin has broken.  Tintin is looking for his magnifying glass, and Snowy brings it to him.  Tintin sets the ship on his desk, and just then Snowy spots a cat and starts chasing it.  The two animals dash around the study until Snowy knocks the model ship off the desk onto the ground, breaking the mast.  As Tintin lifts the broken model, a metal cylinder falls out of the hole where the mast was set and rolls under the desk, but Tintin doesn’t notice.  Tintin decides to go to the library to research the ship some more.  He leaves the model on the desk and exits his apartment.  As he leaves, someone watches him through binoculars from across the street.

In the library, Tintin discovers that the ship, the Unicorn, was involved in one of the most ruinous sea voyages in history.  Its captain Sir Francis Haddock was the only survivor of the trip, after which it was said that he and his family were all cursed.  Though Sir Francis’ ship was ostensibly carrying a cargo of tea and spices when it sank, there were rumors of a secret cargo that was lost at sea.  Sir Francis’ last words were recorded as “Only a true Haddock will discover the secret of the Unicorn.”  As Tintin reads these words, someone watches him from behind the shelves.

Tintin returns home, only to find that the model ship has been stolen from his apartment.  This makes him more determined to find out what is going on, so he goes to a place mentioned in his readings, Marlinspike Hall.  The Hall is an old, abandoned manor, and its gate is locked.  As Tintin tugs at the lock, he sees that Snowy has somehow gotten inside the gate.  Snowy shows him there is a hole in the brick wall surrounding the estate.  Tintin climbs through the hole and walks up to the front of the manor.  There is a coat of arms over the door, and Tintin recognizes the fish in the coat of arms as a Haddock.  Just then, a Rottweiler appears and begins snarling at Tintin.  Tintin runs, and the Rottweiler chases until Snowy leaps in front of it, barking.  The Rottweiler immediately drops to the ground in submission.

Tintin returns to the manor and breaks in through the window.  Someone is already inside, watching him.  Tintin sees that his model ship is being held in a glass case.  As he reaches for it, a butler hits Tintin over the head, knocking him unconscious.

When Tintin comes to, he sees that the butler is in the employ of the second man who approached him at the flea market.  The man introduces himself as Mr. Sakharine (Daniel Craig), and he demands to know why Tintin has broken in.  Tintin says he came to get his ship back, and Sakharine says it’s not his ship.  Tintin is about to argue, but he realizes the mast on this model ship is not broken as his was.  There are two identical models.  Sakharine asks why Tintin so curious about the ship, and Tintin says he can tell there is a story there.  When Tintin won’t agree to stop nosing around, Sakharine kicks him out.  As the butler shows Tintin to the door, the butler says, “It’s a pity about your ship.  I hope you found all the pieces – some things are easily lost.”

As Tintin returns home, he ponders the butler’s words.  Entering his apartment, he sees that someone has rifled through all his belongings.  Snowy starts sniffing around, and barks at the space beneath the desk.  Tintin pulls the desk away from the wall and finds the metal cylinder from his model ship.  He opens it to discover a tiny scroll.  The scroll bears a riddle – it says that the Unicorn will be found when the light hits the eagle’s cross, but only a true Haddock will be able to see the location.  There are also some strange symbols on the bottom of the scroll.

Just then, the doorbell rings.  Tintin tucks the scroll into his wallet and goes downstairs, gun in hand, to see the first man from the flea market.  The man tries to warn Tintin of danger again, but a sudden round of gunfire interrupts him.  The man falls through the doorway, shot in the back.  The newspaper he was carrying falls to the ground.  As Tintin yells for his landlady to call the police, the man writes something on the newspaper in blood, over a headline about the pickpocket who is still at large.

The detectives Thompson and Thomson arrive to investigate the shooting.  They inform Tintin that the dead man was a detective from Interpol.  Tintin examines the newspaper and sees that the man has written the word “Karabutian."  He gives the newspaper to Thompson and Thomson as evidence, but they don’t seem particularly interested in it.  As they are departing, Thompson mentions the pickpocket to Tintin, and shows him that his wallet is attached to his pocket via an industrial-strength elastic band, so if the pickpocket tries to take it, he’ll get a surprise.

As the detectives mosey off down the street, Snowy recognizes the smell of the pickpocket, who is right behind them.  The pickpocket tries to take Thompson’s wallet, but is pulled back by the rubber band, colliding with the detectives.  Tintin hears the commotion and comes running, only to bump into the fleeing pickpocket who steals Tintin’s wallet.  Tintin is devastated and begs Thompson and Thomson to apprehend the thief and return his wallet.

As the detectives depart, a hulking, surly man informs Tintin that he has a delivery.  Tintin says, “I didn’t order anything,” and the man says, “That’s because you’re the delivery.”  He claps a rag over Tintin’s mouth, and two other henchmen shove Tintin in a packing crate and push the packing crate into the back of a truck.  Snowy tries to attack their ankles, but they shove Snowy back inside Tintin’s apartment building and slam the door.  Snowy runs upstairs and dashes out the open window, jumping onto the roof of a passing truck, and from there onto the kidnappers’ truck.  They shake him off, but he keeps following.  He watches as the kidnappers load the crate bearing Tintin onto a giant steamer called the Karabutian.

Cut to Tintin, bound in a cage in the hold of the steamer, as two henchmen search his pockets.  Sakharine is there, and he demands to know where the second scroll is.  Tintin refuses to tell him.  They lock Tintin in the hold, but as they are shutting the door, Snowy sneaks inside and chews through Tintin’s ropes. 

On the deck of the ship, Sakharine tells the henchmen to torture Tintin until he reveals the location of the second scroll.  The henchmen tell Sakharine that the captain of the steamer is sobering up and is accusing the crew of mutiny.  Sakharine tells them to give the captain more booze.

The henchmen return to the hold to torture Tintin, but he has barred the door from the inside.  They get some TNT and strap it to the door, planning to blow it open.  Meanwhile, Tintin has smashed some crates and tied the wood to a piece of rope to form a makeshift grappling hook.  He is trying to climb from his porthole to the open porthole above.

The henchmen blow the door open, only to be hit with a volley of shots.  They fall to the ground, then realize the shots were only the corks from exploding champagne bottles.  They search the hold, but Tintin has disappeared.

Meanwhile, Tintin climbs through the upper porthole and falls into the drunken captain’s room.  The captain (Andy Serkis) attacks him, thinking he is one of the henchmen.  Tintin explains that he has been kidnapped.  The captain says that the crew of his ship has been bought off, and he’s been locked in his room for days.  Tintin tries the door, and it opens easily.  The captain says, “Well, I assumed it was locked.”   Tintin and the captain exit the room, immediately bumping into some henchmen who they must fight off.  Victorious, the captain introduces himself as Archibald Haddock.

The defeated henchmen inform Sakharine that Tintin and the captain are escaping.   Sakharine tells them to kill Tintin, but leave the captain alive.  He says, “The captain and I go back a long way.  We have unfinished business, and this time I’m going to make him pay.”  As Sakharine says this, he pets a falcon that is sitting on his shoulder.

The captain explains to Tintin that Sir Francis Haddock had three sons, but the bloodlines of the other two sons died out, so he is the last surviving Haddock.  Tintin realizes that if Sir Francis had three sons, he probably made three model ships containing three scroll clues.  Wherever the steamship is headed, Sakharine must be looking for the third scroll.

The henchmen search the ship for Tintin and the captain, and the captain tells Tintin he knows exactly where they should go, but they need a key for the door.  Tintin sneaks into the room where the rest of the crew are sleeping to steal the key.  He tries to reach for the key, but it’s too far away.  He holds Snowy out to grab it, but Snowy goes for a sandwich instead.  Tintin falls, knocking over both bunks of crewmen, but not a single man wakes up.  Tintin brings the captain the key, and the captain opens the door to reveal a entire room full of liquor.  The captain fills his pockets, then takes Tintin the right direction to the lifeboats.

As they head to the lifeboats, the captain mentions the ship’s radio room.  Tintin sends the captain ahead to the lifeboats, and sneaks into the radio room to send a message to Thompson and Thomson.  As he enters the room, he overhears one of the henchmen saying that the “Milanese Nightingale has landed.”  Tintin also sees a brochure for Bagghar, a port in Morocco.

As Tintin is sending his message in Morse code, a henchman enters the room and pulls a gun on him.  Before the henchman can shoot, Snowy bites his arm and Tintin flees, amidst a hail of gunfire.  The captain is trying to lower a lifeboat, after already knocking one into the water.  Tintin and Snowy leap into the boat, and Tintin shoots the last rope holding them to the ship.  The lifeboat falls into the water, but the steamship turns around and heads straight for them.  Tintin tells the captain to duck down and hide.  The ship plows through the bobbing lifeboat, smashing it to bits.  Tintin and the captain sit up in the other lifeboat, which is still safe.  Sakharine sees the rubble of the first lifeboat and thinks Tintin and the captain have been killed, but then he notices that a second lifeboat is missing.

Tintin and the captain have escaped, but Tintin says they need to get to Morocco.  He shows the captain the Bagghar brochure, and explains that the sultan of Bagghar has a rare model ship collection.  The ship depicted in the pamphlet is none other than the third Unicorn model.  The ship is protected by bulletproof glass, but Tintin is sure that Sakharine intends to steal it.  He thinks the Milanese Nightingale is Sakharine’s secret weapon.  But he knows Sakharine also needs the captain to decipher the clues.  He tells the captain that only a true Haddock will be able to find the secret of the Unicorn.  The captain says he already knows the secret – his uncle told him the story a long time ago, but he was drunk and he can’t remember any of it.

Cut to the pickpocket, who is walking down the street.  He sees the detectives Thompson and Thomson ahead of him, and he tries to avoid them but they insist on speaking with him.  They have no idea who he really is – they only know that in their last altercation with the pickpocket, they pulled off his jacket, and inside was a wallet with the name “Mr. Silk."  They think the wallet was stolen, not that it actually belongs to the pickpocket.  They follow Mr. Silk inside, and see a massive collection of wallets.  They tell him he had better be careful with all these wallets, because there’s a pickpocket on the loose.  But as they are about to leave, Thompson sees that one of the wallets has Tintin’s name and address on it.

Back to the lifeboat, where the captain has accidentally knocked Tintin out with one of the oars.  While Tintin is passed out, the captain has found a bottle of alcohol.  He has drunk some, and used the rest to start a fire, burning the oars.  When Tintin comes to, he tries to stop him, but it’s too late.  They are stranded on the husk of the lifeboat. 

Just then, Tintin sees a seaplane approaching.  The captain tries to attract its attention, but Tintin yells for him to duck.  The plane starts shooting at them.  Tintin only has one bullet left in his gun.  He waits until the plane is directly overhead, then shoots it.  Smoke pours from the engine and the plane goes down in the water.  Tintin dives in, and swims underwater to the plane.  He gets the drop on the two pilots, and forces them to surrender by threatening them with his empty gun.  He reads the flight manual and figures out how to pilot the plane himself.  He and the captain take off, and soon they are passing over the Karaboudjan on their way to Morocco.  That’s when they fly into a huge storm. 

The plane is getting tossed all over the place, and on top of that they are almost out of fuel.  Tintin tells the captain to climb outside and fill the engine with the medicinal alcohol from the first aid kit, but the captain has already drunk it.  He climbs outside anyway, and Tintin yells for him to hurry because they are “running on fumes."  This gives the captain an idea, and he burps into the engine with his alcohol-breath.  This gives them just enough time to fly over the desert and crash into the sand dunes.  Tintin is knocked unconscious, but the captain manages to pull him away from the spinning propeller just in time.

Cut to Tintin and the captain trudging through the blazing hot sand with their shirts tied over their heads.  The captain hasn’t been sober in a very long time, and he is suffering severe alcohol withdrawal.  He is delirious, and he thinks he sees the ocean.  He sees a ship – Sir Francis’ ship.  The semi-sobriety is allowing him to remember what his uncle told him.  He recounts the story to Tintin – Sir Francis’ ship was attacked by pirates.  Sir Francis fought bravely and had almost defeated the pirates when the masked pirate king jumped into the fight.  Captain Haddock snaps back to reality – he can’t remember any more.

Cut to nighttime.  Tintin and the captain are passed out in the sand, and Snowy is barking.  The barking attracts the attention of some passing soldiers, who carry Tintin and the captain back to their camp and give them medical attention.

Tintin recovers quickly, but the captain is still delirious from dehydration.  He is entirely sober now, and he can’t even remember Tintin.  Snowy sneaks him a bottle of medicinal alcohol, and the captain takes a swig.  The alcohol revives him, and he continues the story of Sir Francis.  Once the pirate king Red Rackham arrived, he disarmed Sir Francis and the pirates took over the ship.  Red Rackham knew there was a secret cargo aboard, but Sir Francis refused to tell him where it was until Red Rackham threatened to execute his men.  Then Sir Francis showed Red Rackham the secret hold full of 400-weight of gold and jewels.  Red Rackham laughed and ordered Sir Francis’ men thrown to the sharks.

Sir Francis was tied to the mast, but one of the feathers in his hat actually had a secret blade on the end.  He waited until the pirates were asleep, then cut himself loose and snuck down to the armory.  He rigged the ship to explode.  At that moment, Red Rackham discovered Sir Francis was loose and attacked.  The two battled across the ship, until Sir Francis stabbed Red Rackham and tore off his mask, to reveal a face very similar to Sakharine’s.  As he lay dying, Red Rackham cursed Sir Francis Haddock, saying “I curse your name!  We will meet again, in another time, another life.”  Sir Francis dove from the ship just as it exploded.  Gold and jewels rained through the air, a large portion falling into Sir Francis’ upturned hat.

Tintin realizes that Sakharine is Red Rackham’s descendant.  He is after the treasure of the sunken Unicorn, and also wants revenge on Captain Haddock, who is Sir Francis’ last living descendent.  Sir Francis wanted to keep the treasure safe so Rackham’s descendants wouldn’t find it, hence why he left clues that only a true Haddock could decipher.  The captain swears he will be the one to find the treasure.

Cut to a marketplace in Bagghar, where Tintin and the captain are being followed by two men.  They realize it is Thompson and Thomson, who received Tintin’s message from the steamship and have brought him his wallet with the second scroll inside.  Just then, Tintin sees a sign for the Milanese Nightingale – she is a singer, and she will be preforming at the sultan’s palace.

Cut to the palace, where the singer is being introduced to the sultan.  She has brought her escort, Sakharine.  Sakharine looks around and sees the third model ship, encased behind bulletproof glass.

Tintin and the captain come to the palace for the Milanese Nightingale’s performance.  Tintin gives the captain the second scroll for safekeeping.  Tintin and the captain sit down as the Nightingale begins her performance, but she is an opera singer and the captain and Snowy can’t stand the sound.  The captain stumbles outside, where he sees a table full of liquor.  He is about to take a drink, but he knows he has the responsibility of the scroll, so he stops himself.  Two of Sakharine’s henchmen grab the bottle and knock him over the head, stealing the scroll.

Tintin is still listening to the singer, but looking around for Sakharine.  He spots him up in the balcony with his falcon, and realizes what is about to happen.  Before Tintin can do anything, the Milanese Falcon hits her high note, shattering all the glass in the place, including the bulletproof glass surrounding the ship model.  Sakharine releases his falcon, who swoops down and steals the third scroll.

Tintin yells for the captain, who runs up and admits that the second scroll has also been stolen.  Tintin is pissed because he thinks the captain was drinking, even though he wasn’t.  Tintin and the captain jump on a motorbike and chase after Sakharine.  The captain has grabbed a bazooka and he tries to shoot Sakharine’s car, but he fires it backward into a water-gate instead, releasing a flood of water down the irrigation canal.  Tintin guns the motorbike past Sakharine and snatches the scrolls from his hand.  Just as quickly, the falcon swoops down and snatches them back.

A huge chase through the city streets ensues, in which the captain and Snowy are captured by Sakharine.  Tintin chases the falcon down to the edge of the ocean, but just as he is about to grab the three scrolls from its talons, Sakharine dangles the captain and Snowy over the water and demands that Tintin release the falcon.  As Tintin struggles with the falcon, the three scrolls line up and the sun shines through the paper, revealing that the symbols are actually coordinates, latitude and longitude.  Before Tintin can see the exact location, Sakharine dumps Snowy and the captain in the water and Tintin has to dive after them.

Sakharine departs on Captain Haddock’s steamship with all three scrolls, and Tintin and the captain are left alone.  The captain asks Tintin what the plan is now.  Tintin says he has no plan, it’s over, they failed.  The captain gives Tintin a big motivational speech about never giving up.  He says that Tintin should never call himself a failure, there are plenty of other people who will try to do that, but you always have to believe in yourself.  Besides, that gives off the wrong signal to people.  This phrase reminds Tintin that he sent a radio signal from the steamship.  That means that he knows the steamship’s frequency and can track it.

Cut to Sakharine, pulling into the original port he left from.  His butler is waiting with the car, and the butler asks, “How was your trip?”  Sakharine says, “I don’t pay you to talk to me.”  The butler says, “You don’t pay me at all.”  He shuts the car door behind Sakharine, but the car is suddenly lifted into the air by a crane, piloted by Captain Haddock. Tintin and Thompson and Thomson are all there to arrest Sakharine, but he jumps from the car window into an adjacent crane and starts battling the captain.  They bash their cranes into each other until they are face to face, and Sakharine says “I’m glad you finally remember everything so I can kill you!”

The cranes are smashed to bits and Sakharine and the captain fall onto the deck of the captain’s steamship.  They swordfight, and at first the captain is getting the worst of it, until Sakharine throws him into a crate of liquor.  The captain starts flinging the liquor bottles at Sakharine until Sakharine threatens to burn the three scrolls.  Tintin swoops in and snatches the scrolls from his hand, and the captain kicks Sakharine overboard into the water.  Thompson and Thomson fish him out and arrest him again.  Tintin lines up the scrolls and shows the captain the latitude and longitude they need to find.

Cut to Tintin driving through the countryside while the captain directs him.  Tintin says, “Are you sure we’re going the right way?” and the captain says, “Steady on!”  They crash through a hedge and find themselves back at Marlinspike Hall.  The butler is standing at the front door, and he says, “I’ve been expecting you.  I’m looking forward to having a Haddock back in charge.”

Tintin asks the captain where they should look, and the captain says down in the cellar.  But when they get down to the cellar, he is confused.  He asks the butler where the other cellar is.  The butler says there is only one.  The captain says he remembers it used to be bigger.  Just then they hear Snowy barking from behind the wall.  Tintin says, “How did you get back there?”  They see there is a small hole in the bricks, and they batter through the wall.

Behind the wall, they find a second chamber full of statues and paintings and furniture.  Tintin recognizes one of the statues as St. John, also known as “the eagle."  Tintin points out the “eagle’s cross," St. John’s cross.  Below the cross is a large globe.  The captain heads straight for the globe and looks it over.  Tintin says the globe is amazing, and the captain says, “Except for this island – it doesn’t exist.”  He knows because he has sailed that stretch of ocean a hundred times.  Tintin realizes that is exactly what Sir Francis wanted, a man who could look at a globe and tell if one tiny island was out of place.  That is the meaning of a “true Haddock." 

The captain touches the fake island, and the globe pops open.  Inside is Sir Francis’ hat full of gold and jewels.  The captain crows with delight, but it’s not the money he’s excited about, it’s the hat.  He pours out the cash and puts the hat on his head.

Tintin notices something else in the globe.  It’s another metal cylinder.  He opens it and finds one final scroll bearing the location of the remainder of the sunken treasure.  He shows it to Captain Haddock and says, “How is your thirst for adventure, captain?”  The captain says, “Unquenchable, Tintin.”  The last shot is a close-up of Snowy barking in excitement.


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