It is 2010, and billionaire and former astronaut Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) and four of his five sons work relentlessly to save the world, in their guise as Thunderbirds, a group of fearless adventurers with tech-tech rocket-ships. Youngest son Alan (Brady Corbet) is super-keen to become one of the Thunderbirds, but his visits to Tracy Island, a secret oasis in the South Pacific and headquarters to International Rescue, are restricted to school holidays. When the Thunderbirds are deployed on a fake mission by arch nemesis The Hood (Ben Kingsley), Alan and his holiday buddies Tin-Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton), the super-brainy son of Jeff's eccentric techno Brain (Anthony Edwards), come up with a plan to rescue his family, defeat the adversaries - and save the world to boot.
Review by Louise Keller:
Thunderbirds for the most part, is a clunky adventure that satisfies neither its Spy Kids target market or those who may remember the puppets of the 60s tv show. The difficulty is getting the tone right. And director Jonathan Frakes struggles visibly with the tone, as it changes from deadly earnest to (in its better moments) comic-book style. For example, the brightly coloured animated opening credits look as through they were designed by someone who had no idea what the actual film was going to be.
The heart of this age-old theme of good versus evil lies in the fact that everything cannot be explained by science. The film focuses on the father son relationship with parallel subplots of implied attraction between youngsters Alan and Tin-Tin as well as the adults Jeff and Lady Penelope. The harsh contrast between Pinewood Studio sets and the exotic tropical location of the beautiful Seychelles Islands with its aqua-marine waters, swaying palm trees and pristine beaches works to its detriment and it is hard to fathom why Ben Kingsley and Bill Paxton agreed to get involved in the first place. Kingsley is always good to watch, playing his villainous character at a highly dramatic pitch, yet this hardly sits well with the other characters, especially the inexperienced youngsters who have the most screen time. Musically, the original theme 'Thunderbirds are go' is far more conducive to the fantasy-adventurous tone than Hans Zimmer's orchestral score, which is deserving of another movie.
Frake's direction is heavy handed, so it comes as no surprise that the scenes that work best are those involving over-the-top, colourful characters. These bright sparks include Rose Keegan's redhead, bespectacled and problem-toothed Transon (wearing snake-skin tights), Anthony Edward's stuttering techno-wizz Brain ('in a couple of weeks you will be swimming like a f-f-f-f, do-do-do... aquatic creature') and Sophia Myles' impossibly pink secret agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward who dresses from head to toe in hot pink, lives in a pink-walled mansion and is chauffeured in a sleek, pink, 6-wheel turbo-charged wing-mobile. 'Pink is the new black this year,' she murmurs, and offers such lines as 'Have you any idea how much a manicure costs these days?' as she plants a pretty punch on her adversaries.
Production designer John Beard looks as though he had fun creating the ultra-modern satellite-shaped buildings built into the side of the island above a spectacular two-tiered swimming pool, and even the London scenes, offering a bird's eye view of the London Eye has some appeal. But locations maketh not the film and sadly Thunderbirds are no go...
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CAST: Bill Paxton, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Edwards, Sophia Myles, Brady Corbet, Soren Fulton, Vanessa Anne Hudgens
PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Mark Huffam
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Frakes
SCRIPT: William Osborne, Michael McCullers (story by Peter Hewitt, William Osborne; tv series by Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brendan Galvin
EDITOR: Martin Walsh
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Beard
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 16, 2004