Dir: Jonathan Frakes
Star: Brady Corbet, Soren Fulton, Bill Paxton, Sophia Myles, Ron Cook, Ben Kingsley
Cert / Year: PG / 2004
Format: Cinema

5...4...3...2...1 Thunderbirds are go! International Rescue is an organisation that uses a series of fantastic machines to avert disasters. Operating from a secret pacific Island the Thunderbird machines are flown by Geoff Tracey and Four of his sons, this leaves only his fifth son Alan who is too young to join the crew. That is until the evil Hood cripples the orbiting space station Thunderbird 5 and maroons all of the thunderbird pilots while he takes over their island base. It is now up to Alan to save International Rescue.

This was always going to be a tricky film to make. Originally the best known of the Gerry Anderson puppet shows Thunderbirds has a massive British following with both parents and (thanks to recent repeats) kids alike. However the peak of its success for some time ago and although it was popular in other countries it's better known in Britain than elsewhere. All of this combined meant that a film was going to have to take the original one hour format expand it, replace the puppets with live actors without losing the look and feel of the original, and have an end result that would still appeal to all age groups of fans and non fans alike. To do it successfully would be a tall order.

With Gerry Anderson (much to his chagrin) excluded from the production writers Peter Hewitt, William Osborne, and Michael McCullers have opted for a safe Spy Kids type of plot. This means that the adult cast plays second fiddle to the kids, who have this standard coming of age story in order that they can save the day. Although this shows a total lack of originality it does appeal to the younger audience, and lets face it, it is a plot that even the original Thunderbirds used. This means that the story firmly in the hands of Alan Tracey, TinTin, and Brian's son Fermat (?).

Before all adults go off muttering about it being ruined because it's a kids film. Let's bear in mind that fact that the original was a kids show, and although this ones story concentrates on the younger cast there is a line in adult humor running through the film in an attempt to keep us happy. The characters of Parker, Lady Penelope and the Hood's side kick Transom mainly responsible for this. Full credit must go to Ron Cook, Sophia Myles (looking for all the world like Kate Winslet) and Rose Keegan for such entertaining performances. However they are all overshadowed by Ben Kinsley's The Hood. He is brilliantly evil and yet he manages to look just like the puppet, it's a class turn and that's no mistake. It's a real shame that the Tracey family is rather anonymous.

So just how Thunderbirds is it? Well from the classic countdown and updated theme tune this film certainly has the feel of Thunderbirds (bar the rather odd Pink Panther like credits). The vehicles themselves are for the most part very similar. Ok so Thunderbird 2 has lost its pods and has gone fat and Thunderbird 4 is a more traditional looking mini sub but everything else is a just a more practical reworking of the original. Even more pleasing is the HO scale model look and feel of Tracey Island. A great job has been made of making things look like the original even down to the Thunderbird launch sequences (although the sequences are shorter). Ok so the uniforms may have changed, but originals did make international rescue look like a bunch of flight attendants. The changes then are a mixed bag but beneath it all there are still nearly all of the elements that made up Thunderbirds.

Unfortunately there is a couple off other gripes with the film. The first is that it would have been nice if the Thunderbird machines had been given more screen time, after all they were as much the stars of the original shows as the puppets. The second is the totally intrusive product placement sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Barely a frame goes by with out a Ford logo in it and it is just plain annoying (Lady Penelope should drive a Rolls Royce and wouldn't been seen dead in a rather lame Ford). Lastly is the fact that the Tracey's keep referring to themselves as Thunderbirds not International Rescue. I know its petty hearing it just sounds rather forced and gimmicky.

Thunderbirds is a fun film aimed at the younger audience, but has just enough going for it to keep the parents happy. It may not appeal to those who did not grow up with Thunderbirds, and may offend some of those who have, but it for the most part walks this tightrope quite well. Covering up the story's failings Jonathan (tubby Ryker) Frakes delivers a pace that never lets up, and ensures a good level of entertainment until the end credits roll. Overall this is a film that certainly doesn't deserve all of the critic’s negative comments. Maybe they were expecting Spiderman realism when what they got was Thunderbirds.

I for one would hope that this film does well enough to warrant a sequel, one in which the older cast members and their machines take a more prominent role (just as long as they don't set out to rescue the Ford motor company from disaster).


The greatest rescue organisation in the world has a major problem.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home