“ Author: Herge / Format: Hardback / Date of publication: 20 June 2003 / Genre: Children's General Fiction / Publisher: Egmont Childrens Books / Title: Flight 714 / ISBN 13: 9781405208215 / ISBN 10: 1405208215 / Alternative title: The Adventures of Tintin: Flight 714 - Herge / Alternative ISBN 10: 1405206330 „
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Flight 714 is the twenty-second and penultimate book in Hergé's much loved Tintin series of adventures and was first published in 1968. As they were the first men to step on the moon, Tintin and Captain Haddock - along with Professor Calculus and Snowy the dog - are on their way to an Astronautical Congress in Sydney that they have been invited to as honoured guests. At Jakarta's Kemayoran Airport while their plane refuels though, they bump into their old friend Piotr Skut from The Red Sea Sharks. Skut is now working as a pilot for the eccentric and notoriously grumpy millionaire Laszlo Carreidas, who famously hasn't laughed for many years. When Professor Calculus accidently accomplishes this very rare feat and makes Carreidas chuckle, the grateful millionaire offers Tintin and his friends a ride to Sydney as guests in his luxury prototype private jet.
Trouble soon looms though for our heroes when the plane is hi-jacked at gunpoint by the treacherous staff of Carreidas with the millionaire, Tintin, Captain Haddock, Calculus and Skut all becoming hostages. The plane is taken to the deserted volcanic island of Pulau-Pulau Bompa in the Celebes Sea where Rastapopoulos - Tintin's most famous old enemy - awaits. Rastapopoulos is determined to find out the number of the secret Swiss bank account held by Carreidas but the unexpected presence of Tintin and friends soon threatens to upset his plans as they all gradually begin to realise that there is something very strange indeed about this island...
Like Tintin and the Picaros, Flight 714 is another of those later Tintin books that is obviously trying to be more up to date and bring the character into the modern world. The book has a vaguely James Bondian plot that soon becomes very strange indeed with Erich von Däniken's (then trendy) theories obviously playing a role in the far out story. It's always interesting to read Tintin books and look at what they may have subsequently influenced and Flight 714 I suspect is a book that the writer of the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull owes quite a bit to. Indiana Jones meets The X-Files would not be a million miles away from a fair description of Flight 714 at times. Another interesting parallel is with the cult television series Lost. In Flight 714 the characters find themselves trapped on a deserted jungle island as they battle/chase around and gradually begin to notice that there is something rather mysterious about the location. 'There's something funny about this place,' says Captain Haddock early on. 'A weird atmosphere.' He's not wrong either.
Although Flight 714 is generally very well regarded I find it slightly less satisfying than some of the other classic Tintin adventures on the whole. It's still fun but the story lacks the globe-trotting and/or European atmosphere that one associates most with Tintin - the action restricted to the jungly island with Tintin and company escaping and being chased etc around Pulau-Pulau Bompa by Rastapopoulos and his goons. Rastapopoulos, who is meant to be Tintin's version of Blofeld I suppose, is a little disappointing here and mostly played for laughs rather than shown as a particularly brilliant or menacing adversary. Flight 714 contains plenty of Hergé's trademark humour although it's more spread out here and therefore Captain Haddock gets off fairly lightly. Carreidas, Rastapopulos, Calculus and Allan - the chief crony of Rastapopulos - are all given some of the accidents and pratfalls that usually go the Captain's way. There is a great joke early on though where Haddock mistakes the disheveled Carreidas for a down and out at the airport and slips five dollars in his hat when he drops it, and the game of 'Battleships' between the Captain and Carreidas on the private jet is good fun too.
There is also a great comic passage involving Rastapopoulos where he has Carreidas injected with a truth serum to get the secret bank account number out of him - only for Carreidas to then truthfully reveal absolutely everything crooked about his life (except for the bank numbers of course!) starting with him stealing a piece of fruit back in 1910! Rastapopulos then accidently becomes injected with the truth serum himself after a struggle and the two men argue over who has been the most dishonest in their lives! 'You doctor,' says Rastapopulos to his assistant. 'I promised you forty thousand dollars to get the account number out of Carreidas. And all the time I'd made a plan to eliminate you when the job was done. The same goes for the others. The Devil himself couldn't do it better!'
There is a fair bit of action, shooting and running around in Flight 714 with the spectacular location making a nice backdrop. The drawings of the Concorde style private jet of Carreidas circling the island and trying to land on the tiny airstrip are nicely done too and we see it fly over the sails of an old ship in a great panel. It's as if Hergé knew he was coming towards the end of Tintin now and just wanted to have a big, almost cinematic adventure for the characters. The action is just on the verge of becoming a little samey and repetitive when it switches to the subterranean world of the island and takes on a more mysterious and surreal aura with telepathy and Tintin and Haddock perplexed as the secrets of Pulau-Pulau Bompa are slowly revealed. There are some lovely illustrations of stone statues, caves and volcanic eruptions in these sections. One novel thing about Flight 714 is that it is an experience that the characters - save for Snowy of course who can't speak! - have no memory of whatsoever. It is like the forgotten Tintin adventure.
Flight 714 is not quite in my top tier of Tintin adventures but by most other standards this is still very entertaining and amusing stuff with lovely illustrations and the usual exciting spirit of adventure. That a layer of X-Files type mystery is thrown into the mix adds to the overall interest of the story - which occasionally veers towards being a little too straight ahead and action oriented after a great opening. A good read on the whole though, this is one of the more cinematic and famous of the Tintin stories and recommended.