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Thunderbirds (2004) – DVD Review

Thunderbirds DVD cover art


Written by Michael McCullers, William Osborne, and Peter Hewitt, based on the television series by Gerry and Silvia Anderson
Directed by Johnathan Frakes
Starring Brady Corbet, Soren Fulton, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Bill Paxton, Dominic Colenso, Sophia Myles, Anthony Edwards, and Sir Ben Kingsley


  • Running audio commentary with Director Jonathan Frakes
  • Featurettes: “The Ultimate Action Sequence,” “Secrets of Tracy Island,” “FAB1: More Than Just a Car,” “Lady Penelope’s Pink World,” and “Lady P. and Parker”
  • Music Video Performed by Busted

Released by: Universal
Rating: PG
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: If you’ve got young kids, they might enjoy it, but don’t buy it unless you are absolutely forced to. We’re talking with guns.

[ad#longpost]The Tracy family are a really spectacular bunch. The father, Jeff Tracy (Paxton), has established International Rescue, a group that does exactly what its name implies. If there’s trouble anywhere in the world, they will be there saving humanity in their ships, the impressive Thunderbirds. Needless to say, there are those evil people in the world who have it in for the Tracy family and will stop at nothing to bring them down–literally.

Enter The Hood (Kingsley). In addition to wanting to use the Thunderbirds to rob all of the major banks all over the world and thereby tainting the repuation of International Rescue, he also has a peronal score to settle in that Tracy and sons killed his brother years before. After the Hood traps Tracy and the Thunderbirds on their space station, Thunderbird 5, it’s up to Tracy’s teenage son, Alan (Corbet), and his two friends Fermat (Fulton) and Tintin (Hudgens) to save not only the world, but their family as well.

If you are looking for a serious, high-action film…you might want to look around a bit more. This is geared more toward young children. From a marketing standpoint, I think they could have done a little better job; mostly because they didn’t engage the hardcore fans of the original Supermarionation epics that Gerry Anderson and his wife created nearly thirty years ago. Even though the original series was geared toward the children of the day, it had a more serious tone and a much stronger sense of urgency about the situations. I chalk the problems of this movie up to the screenplay and the misuse (or in some cases, lack of use) of its main stars. The writing is merely second rate and tries to be hip and cool for the kids while maintaining a sense of the action going on. There are too many one-liners and they are not particularly well delivered ones at that.

The kids from Thunderbirds
The young heroes from Thunderbirds, startled by the lack of action.

In terms of the misuse of the stars of this movie, I think it would have been much stronger to have used Paxton in the film rather than just stranding him on the space station and having him wait for his son to rescue him. I’m sure the actor playing the son might actually get better at this whole acting thing, but they hinged the entire success of this movie on three unknown young people and let all of the Big Name Stars run around them. Still, if I were a young boy of oh, nine or so, I would probably find this movie to be pretty cool.

The DVD is okay. I have heard better commentary tracks, but I’m just thankful there is one. Frakes is not the most exciting speaker, but he knows what he wanted in his film, even if taking you through it sounds like an insurance seminar. The other features focus mostly around the special effects sequences. The featurettes are very much designed toward a younger audience. I say this because there is very little mention of the series that started it all. Instead, they focus on the more “exciting” aspects of the movie, the action sequences and the like. However, there are several features that center around Lady Penelope’s character. There is very little here because they were tyring to balance shots of the beautiful Sophia Myles for the older males in the audience with enough gadgetry to keep the younger males in the audience interested as well. I wish I could say they did a better job. There are also the standard wastes-of-space like music videos and trailers.

Jonathan Frakes, director of Thunderbirds
Jonathan Frakes, director of Thunderbirds, has no strings to hold him down.

The paucity of information about the original is a bit of a crime and simply underscores the fact that the filmmakers didn’t give a damn about the property they had bought. They were trying to make something like Spy Kids instead and just wanted the name. This is no surprise; it happens all the time. But still, you’d think they would have put enough on here to admit to some tenuous connection to what has come before.

All in all, if you are looking for an action film that works for younger audiences as well, pick something else. This movie has enough trouble trying to figure out which audience its trying to please the most and, as a result, pleases no one.

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