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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 160

Date:- 24 July 2004

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Our Film Review:- 
THUNDERBIRDS (2004)
Review by Patrick Trollope BA(Hons) LBPPA

THUNDERBIRDS are F.A.B. and will do well in the kids market with tag lines like "Coming To The Rescue" "Climb Into The Driver's Seat Of The Most Advanced Rescue Vehicles On The Planet" "Prepare for the new generation." "The greatest rescue organisation in the world has a major problem." Please note the tagline "Prepare for the new generation." Not learning from history, Thunderbirds have hit the cinema screens once again. This time leaving out the creator of the original Thunderbirds, Gerry Anderson, who was not involved with this movie. I cannot think why, but he understandably didn't take too kindly to the fact. The resulting film, I don't think would be something he would be happy to be associated with, so it is probably just as well. Instead of going to him the movie firms went to Jonathan Frakes, who when asked to direct the film is alleged to have said, "Is it about wild life? An eco movie of some type?" Interestingly this fingers... A good British story turned into a Americanised story and plot. Not content with the traditional idea it has to be updated and the tagline "Prepare for the new generation" gives the future away I'd love to point out everything that's wrong with this movie, but I don't have time. In fairness to director Jonathan Frakes, the two 1960s "Thunderbirds" movies that Anderson produced and co-wrote flopped in the cinemas and were not fantastic. But that does not excuse Hollywood from ripping off yet another bit of British TV history and what is now regarded as a classic and much loved work of art. In it's day Thunderbirds was not thought of as groundbreaking, now they are, so the Americans just want to cash in. Ok, we have to fit in with new audience viewing habits, but could they not have used computer generated imagery to animate it all? Why did the Americans have to make it into a live action movie? The original was not live action and the whole feel and the original concepts have been lost forever in this film. It should do well, but with the children more than with adults. It will not be remembered as the original has been, because of its lack of magic and imagination. If done to the same standard of animation as Shreck or Monsters Inc. this could have been a massive hit with both age groups. Alas, that was never done and considering Universal's track record in such things, the phrase, "Here we go again" pops up in my mind. This film alienates older fans rather than embracing them and apparently seeks to please the box offices as a quick cash maker. This will more then likely kill what is TV's most successful and most fondly-remembered children's series, for both aficionados and newcomers alike. Not content with changing the look, they changed the costumes Now we have racing car drivers' costumes and no hats! Hans Zimmer's music is not a patch on Barry Gray's... The whole idea of Thunderbirds has been lost as the emphasis in the original program on the fantastic machines, is now taken over by the America obsession, trying to be intellectually clever. Now the story is overloaded by irrelevant family problems and the Thunderbirds are only used in a few parts of this film, thus becoming secondary to the story. There was no countdown at the beginning, just a very bad animated intro. Again without using the Thunderbirds as a reference. Yes, they messed about even more, Brains actually has a little boy following in his dad's footsteps. Let's move on. Quickly, before I spoil the other new ideas that they have added to make it more American and more Intellectual. This is the same mistake that they made in the "Lost in Space" movie. Strange thing is that you would have thought Universal would have remembered that... The movie's special effects aren't anything to write home about. Sorry, but I had to get it off my chest.

Back to the film forgetting the history part, as a film that is live action, this merits a three star rating (average) against most children's action films in the cinema, at present. It is nothing to rave about. The only real reference to the original, apart from the names of the characters, and the machines themselves (when used), is when the Hood uses his mental powers to make Brains move like a puppet? Funny?... No, rather somewhat of an insult! The story starts off with team having narrowly averted a major disaster on an oil rig, as Alan watches from school. The returning crew then unwittingly revealing to the international master criminal Aristotle Spode, aka The Hood, the location of the Thunderbirds secret base! Oh No... The story then focuses firmly on the youngest member of the Tracy family, Alan, and his newly invented side kick Fermat Brains, yes a side kick... Soon, a suggested teenage love story is hinted at between Alan and Tin Tin. Later, Alan is seen earning his right to be an official member of International Rescue. 

If you ignore my obvious bias against this film, I can say that it is still entertaining and worth a trip to the cinema to see if you are a kid, but do not expect them to be as captured as they are with the TV series or as captivated with the TV series after the film. 

My summary... a passable film for kids aged 7 to 14, if you ignore the original ideas and story behind Thunderbirds. If you are feeling nostalgic for the original however, give it a miss!

A very grudgingly awarded of three out of five...
BadPoorGoodVery Good

(You may have guessed by now that this review is by a fan of the originals)

I will leave you with one question, "Why did they redesign the Thunderbirds logo and lose the strips?"

 

Directed by:- Jonathan Frakes. 

Cast:- Brady Corbet as Alan Tracy, Debora Weston as Teacher, Soren Fulton as Fermat, Lou Hirsch as Headmaster, Alex Barringer as Excited Kid, Demetri Goritsas as News Anchor, Genie Francis as Lisa Lowe, Philip Winchester as Scott Tracy, Dhobi Oparei as Mullion (as Deobia Oparei), Bill Paxton as Jeff Tracy, Kyle Herbert as Know It All Kid, Dominic Colenso as Virgil Tracy, Ben Torgersen as Gordon Tracy, Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope, Ron Cook as Parker, Johannes Zadrozny as Panhead, Nicola Walker as Panhead's Mother, Ben Kingsley as The Hood, Anthony Edwards as Brains, Harvey Virdi as Onaha, Bhasker Patel as Kyrano, Vanessa Anne Hudgens as Tintin, Lex Shrapnel as John Tracy, Rose Keegan as Transom, Stewart Howson as Engineer, Mark Nelmes as Ice Cream Man, Julian Spencer as Henchman and Andy Smart as Henchman & Oil Rig Worker.

 

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