Thunderbirds is not a horrid film as critics might like you to believe. Rather, itís a pretty good kids film, riddled with visual pizzazz.
Directors: Jonathan Frakes
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Mark Huffam
Writers: Peter Hewitt, William Osborne, Michael McCullers
Features: * Commentary * Featurettes * Trailers * Music Video
Jeff Tracy...Bill Paxton
The Hood...Ben Kingsley
Lady Penelope...Sophia Myles
Alan Tracy...Brady Corbet
Iím not sure what to make of the marketing travesty that is Thunderbirds. Iím guessing a big studio honcho said this one day: "Hey that Spy Kids movie did great, letís make something like that". To which I think this: Okay, so letís take a slightly obscure British marionette show with an adult fan base and turn it into kiddy fluff.
So you can see why critics mauled the hell out of Thunderbirds. Itís not that itís bad, itís just that it could have been very good (as the old show was fantastic) and in the end, the big budget remake is well, sorta lame.
In truth, Thunderbirds is not a horrid film as critics might like you to believe. Rather, itís a pretty good kids film, riddled with visual pizzazz. Itís not for the hardcore fans per say, but for the fanís kids. It also happens to be one of the most visually impressive filmís Iíve seen. Itís amazing how cool and realistic CG looks when the animators revert back to simplistic colors. Now if they could only figure out that they should always keep visual effects looking this way, then weíd be somewhere.
I actually ended up favoring this feature more than the over-the-top Spy Kids franchise which has received more fame that it should have. If I were a kid, Iíd think those films were silly and oddly off the wall. Today I find that they always seen to undermine the kids themselves all while trying to show that theyíre just a Ďcool and hipí as their spy parents.
When you look at kids films and their box office success, the Spy Kids franchise doesnít really rank very high either. Not when compared to the Harry Potter franchise or anything made totally out of CG these days. In other words, making this film solely for kids, based on an only slightly popular franchise, was a gamble to begin with, though itís a gamble that, for the most part, pays off.
If youíre a fan of Thunderbirds, stick with the old show, now on DVD, or the Trey Parker and Matt Stone spoof: Team America: World Police. Both will wet your whistle, but this adaptation of Thunderbirds is bound to leave you with acid reflux. For kids, it doesnít get much better than this.
For fans: *
For kids: * * * 1/2
Thunderbirds is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, aspect ratio 1:85:1. Again, this is one excellent looking film and an excellent looking DVD to boot. Color is vibrant and bright. This is sure to widen some eyes. If you want to show off the power of your system, this is one great movie to do it with.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, this is a very lively track. The track is surround heavy so expect to give your rear speakers a nice workout. Itís not too bass heavy which is nice considering the past few Universal titles have been as such. No DTS here, which is sad, but the 5.1 track provided works just as well. An excellent mix. Just like the picture, this is a great disc to show off your system.
Given that this wasnít a huge success, Iím surprised there are special features at all. While not the best assortment of special features, fans of the film should enjoy.
First off, I gave the Scene-Specific Audio Commentary, from disgruntled director Jonathan Frakes, a listen. Sadly he doesnít spill the beans on what went wrong with the feature. Rather, he defends the film, somewhat convincingly, that while it may not be for everyone, itís certainly fun for kids.
Next we are treated to a slew of featurettes totaling roughly 30 minutes. They include, "Creating the Action", "Tracy Island Revealed", "Lady P. And Parker: Fun and Stunts", "Fab 1: More than a Car" and "Lady Penelopeís Pink World". There really isnít much info here. Rather, these are EPK style featurettes used to promote the feature. Some interesting bits, but this will interest fans of film only.
As usual, several Trailers for new and future Universal releases are provided as well as a Music video from the band, Busted.
Thunderbirds fans be warned. This is not for you. Iím very, very sorry. Perhaps in a few more years, there will be a better film for you. Others, please feel safe to give Thunderbirds a ride. Itís a great, family friendly adventure.
Rated PG for intense action sequences and language.
* Running Time: 95 minutes
* List Price: $29.98
* Available on DVD December 21st 2004.
----R. L. Shaffer