Review: Thunderbirds [2004] - dir. Jonathan Frakes

Based on the cult British television show from the 1960s, Thunderbirds explodes into the 21st Century with this thrilling live-action version of the franchise. The International Rescue organization a team of highly organized law enforcers is the focal point for the movie. International Rescue is based on a remote desert island location, and is called into action whenever the world's sinister masterminds threaten to disturb the balance of society.

Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) heads up the team, and employs his sons to help him out. Teenager Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) is a little too young to join, and is constantly frustrated by his lack of opportunity to join the brothers on their missions.
But when the evil villain known as The Hood (Ben Kingsley) traps the International Rescue team in outer space, it seems Alan's time has come. The Hood steals one of the many spacecrafts designed by International Rescue, and executes an outlandish scheme to rob the Bank of England. Alan and his pal Fermat (Soren Fulton) attempt the double-whammy of rescuing the trapped family and stopping The Hood, by drawing on help from the sultry Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles), her butler Parker (Ron Cook), and a few gadgets and vehicles courtesy of International Rescue.

Despite being determined to hate this film, and be outraged at the treatment handed out to a classic series, I actually ended up enjoying it.
On the whole, the slew of appalling reviews this film got are most definitely unfair, but then it was always going to be an uphill struggle. For those of us who remember Thunderbirds from our childhood it would be a disappointment and a scandal that anyone could dare to do something like this to a nation's favourite series. For the newer generation, it was always going to be viewed with suspicion as yet another 60s remake to try and cash in on the anorak wearing old duffers (like me) who like to say things like "FAB" (N.B. This is not in fact true, as you are more likely to hear SIG come out of my mouth!).

Thankfully it is neither of these things.
It is most definitely not a faithful remake of the TV series, but looking back objectively that is in no way a bad thing, the original Thunderbirds was strictly for an audience brought up with The Lone Ranger or Flash Gordon, so the stories were heavy handed and the morals sometimes stifling. Instead, the film takes the general idea and concept of Thunderbirds and in effect asks the question "what would Thunderbirds look like if Gerry Anderson was doing it today", and in my (very humble) opinion, Jonathan Frakes actually pulls this off with style and panache.

Like many modern children's films the heroes are the kids (young Alan, Tin-Tin and Fermat - son of Brains) who manage to rescue the rest of the team from a stricken Thunderbird 5 while seeing off the Hood who has stolen Thunderbird 2 to get up to some nefarious deeds in London.
Despite the new "feel" to it, it is an affectionate and respectful tribute to the original series, promoting the same worthy values of self sacrifice and bravery. Most of the characters have been updated and albeit for a few bad characterisations (Anthony Edwards being the stand out here, with his humiliating portrayal of Brains) they work luckily for everyone Parker and Lady Penelope survive in a very recognisable form, and manage to steal the show beutifully.
If you are looking for a good kids film which uses the Thunderbirds idea and format, watch this, for the anorak wearing fanatical Thunderbirds fan of around 40 years old for everyone elses sake please, Please, PLEASE give this a miss.


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