Thunderbirds (2004) – movie review

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Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Bill Paxton, Sophia Myles, Brady Corbet, Ron Cook, Debora Weston, Soren Fulton

Director: Jonathan Frakes

THUNDERBIRDS are finally back in a completely different guise because now, years after the fairly outdated puppet version of the TV show we have a brand new big budget movie version complete with real people. However fans and kids (including the big kids in all of us) will be pleased to note that all of the THUNDERBIRDS vehicles are still around although they have been subtly updated.

In this adventure the movie’s villain, “The Hood” (Ben Kingsley) lures the Thunderbirds team, which now has the father Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) as an active member, out to rescue Thunderbird 5 (their space station) after launching a missile attack on it. The Hood then invades Tracy Island overpowering Brains (Anthony Edwards) but forgetting about Jeff’s Tracy’s teenage son, Alan (Brady Corbet), as well as his two friends Fermat (Soren Fulton) Brain’s son and Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), the daughter of another resident of Tracy Island. The Hood then strands the Thunderbirds rescue team on the space station and sends it into a declining orbit with the intention of using the rest of the Thunderbirds craft that are still remaining on Tracy Island to rob the world’s banks. It’s now up to Tracy’s youngest son Alan, not yet a member of the team, to rescue the Thunderbirds with some help from his two friends as well as Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles) and Parker (Ron Cook) of course.

There are some minor changes to the movie version of Thunderbirds from the old TV show, aside from the obvious fact that the movie has real people but generally speaking all of the important stuff is there. The main change is to the story as the underlying theme is about Alan rescuing his father and older brothers with the help of his two friends rather than the main Thunderbirds team who are adults being the only heroes.

THUNDERBIRDS fans of the TV show may dislike this but it’s actually a good twist as this is very much an action film aimed at kids who’s age group always have been THUNDERBIRDS main audience. In this sense it follows very well, in the genre of the highly successful SPY KIDS movies whilst still retaining some appeal to adults from its nostalgia value.

From this perspective THUNDERBIRDS purists really should grow up and accept that this is great entertainment for today’s generation of children. Director Jonathan Frakes has done an excellent job of updating THUNDERBIRDS with real people and injected it with a huge dose of action that the original TV show often lacked. Lets hope this is just the start of a refreshed franchise.

Note: See if you can spot the nod to the original puppet version in the brief shot where “strings” have been added to a hand on the controls of Thunderbird One.

5 out of 6 stars