Reviewed by: Ed Cox
|Featuring||Bill Paxton, Brady Corbet, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles|
|Producer||Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Mark Huffam|
“Coming To The Rescue”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Thunderbirds is set in the year 2065, and features retired billionaire astronaut Colonel John Tracy (Bill Paxton) and his five sons who operate a rescue team called International Rescue. Aided by their considerable wealth, they employ a fleet of vehicles, ranging from boats to rockets, and spring into action whenever their special services are required to avert the latest crisis. Helping out the Tracys are Brains (Anthony Edwards), a technological genius who developed the group’s rockets; Jeff’s assistant Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin; and pretty Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles) along with Parker (Ron Cook), her driver. An evil international master criminal named Aristotle Spode, aka The Hood (Ben Kingsley), invades Tracy Island, the secret base of the Thunderbirds, because he wants to use their vehicles to facilitate his criminal ambitions. The plot focuses on 12-year-old Alan (Brady Corbet), the youngest of the clan, who with the help of two of his friends, has to save his father and brothers from The Hood’s diabolical plans. “
The enjoyable thing about this movie is how faithful it is to the original machines and scenario. The opening credits (done in cartoon fashion) use many of the story line rescues from the TV show. The franchise is much better protected and lovingly recreated in this live action film than others of its ilk (e.g., “The Grinch,” “The Cat in the Hat,” etc.).
However, some license was taken to make the story more appealing to youth (according to the producer). Allen Tracy, the youngest of the 20-something brothers is now 12 in the movie, played by a 16-year-old actor (while his older brothers are still the same age). If you can get around that, you can enjoy the film. There are a few inconsistencies that are fun to notice. For example, if the year is 2065, why does Lady Penelope have a 1998 T-bird sitting in her driveway? It seems unlikely that a 67 year old car would be used for general transportation.
A family film needs to have family values, and this movie has more than a few. Loyalty, honor, devotion, duty are all displayed in force by the Tracy family to the citizens they serve. The kids learn to work with each other as they struggle to overcome obstacles. One particularly effective subplot is Allen’s temporary abuse of Fermat’s disability which causes Allen to grow up on screen. The movie teaches that wrong is wrong, and no matter how tempting it might be to take revenge, taking the moral high road is what we are supposed to do.
However, the film does occasionally diverge slighty from family values. There is some minor language (2 different “d” versions, plus, oddly, one in the closing credits music: “Thunderbirds kick some a**”). The villainess (Rose Keegan playing Transom) spends half her time trying to explore anything but her counterparts “Brains” (pun intended). Nothing ever comes to fruition, but it gets close enough to obvious intent to leave a small but bad taste in the mouth. Along the same lines, things like Lady Penelope in the bubble bath with Parker serving tea are right out of the 1960s TV show, but the furtive glances are Hollywood’s addition, I suppose to keep the parents watching.
A final piece of Hollywood is the continuing idea that adults can’t fend for themselves and need a child to save the day. The Tracy family of the TV show were all mature, honorable people. In this movie, with the rewind of Tin Tin and Allen’s ages, we find a mano-a-mano argument between the emerging man of Allen and the head of the household Jeff Tracy. It is a shame after spending all this money to make a live action movie with an enduring franchise that Hollywood can’t come up with a more effective strife mechanism for protagonists.
I’m a huge fan of the “Thunderbirds,” watching it as a kid and introducing it to my brood when they were 9-11 years of age. I’m sure they watched it as a kindness to an aging father, rather a museum piece. The movie version of “Thunderbirds” is absolutely a kid flick, a nicely done one; fine for most ages (I’d say 7 and up) given the discussion above (language, extra curricular). “Thunderbirds” may not go down in the same breath as “Spiderman 2,” but you can take your kids and gain several opportunities to talk “adult” language with them—honor, maturity, teamwork, respect and values.
Many press reviews have panned this movie. But the message that can’t get lost, desperately needing reinforcement to our children is that a strong head of household, loving family is really a matter worth our time and attention. We should surround our children in our homes with this and in the culture that we frequent—even our entertainment. “Thunderbirds” offers us the chance to do just that.
Reviewer’s response: “‘Thunderbirds’ does not refer to the powers as psychic (consulting spirits), rather they are metaphysical (using powers of the mind over physical objects). In the movie, the character mentions ‘when you have studied eastern martial arts as I have,’ but there is no mention of Eastern religions in the film. The conclusion that my wife and I came to is that the force that was used was more comic book (read fantasy) in nature and not specifically from any source (good or evil). As such, I did not think it was worthy of calling out in a Christian or any other type of review… we must steel ourselves against railing against evil that is not present, but rather evil that is present.”
Editor’s note: Glowing eyes and super powers emitted from peoples’ eyes are a common fantasy gimmick in children’s cartoons and superhero live action shows—for both good guys and bad—and they generally have nothing to do with the occult or spirit world (e.g., Superman, X-Men, etc.).