Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Everything that I had heard about this film turned out to be true.

In fact, it's hard to see what I can add to the catalogue of criticisms already levelled at it by so many other harsh reviewers. Only more negative stuff, I'm afraid. I really thought that I would find a good angle in here somewhere... :(

It should have all been so easy. The original series creator – Gerry Anderson MBE – is such a fine action-director. He made both UFO and Space:1999! Whenever I come across these shows, I wish that I could see another pulse-pounding live-action movie by him. Imagine – live action Thunderbirds by Gerry Anderson – what more sure-fire ingredients do you need?

Yet according to Wikipedia, not only was Anderson not asked to direct, but ultimately ruled-out of even being a consultant on his own creations. Apparently while the studio did not want the expense of paying him for that, they were paradoxically willing to offer him £86,000 just to attend the premiere! (he refused, theatrically the film only recouped around half its cost)

In the circumstances, I certainly wasn't going to pay these people any money to go see it either. I wonder how many other potential viewers didn't?

It's hard to understand how Jonathan Frakes, after his years of experience in Star Trek circles, could ever have signed on to direct a film that he must have known could not possibly overcome such an insult to its core audience.

I'd suspect that he was trying to make the best of a bad job – good for him in that respect – but on almost every other level this film is a parody of bad modern kidflicks.

The main Thunderbird characters are even pushed into the background, so that the film can principally focus on three children. The fact that this accidentally makes the film a prequel actually covers a multitude of sins.

However it cannot hide the token story, the dreary music or the rushed pacing. Throughout, this defines the apathetic, patronising and condescending tone of today's throwaway cinema. Even the highlighting at the top of the poster above is wrong. Yeah, that'll do. Whatever.

Just before the end there is a brief Thunderbirds-ish moment when Thunderbird 4 has to save some people in a submerged monorail, but it's all over so quickly that there's just no time for anyone to care.

However there's another ingredient that modern remakes tend to smugly fit-in too: the subtle tribute to the original. Even here, Thunderbirds thinks the way to wink knowingly at fans is by actually rubbishing the series they love. Under mind-control, Brains is forced to awkwardly walk "like a puppet on a string". I gather that there was also another shot when they had given someone's hand a visible string. Okay, I've got it, you hate the original series, Gerry Anderson, and me, you can stop now.

But here's the really incredible thing – I actually don't have a lot of love for the original Thunderbirds series. Never really have done. I gave up after the first few shows, because I found it was all far too slow for me. (I gather that Lew Grade ordered the early ones to be padded-out to double their running-time) Yet as I watched this version on ITV today, even I was offended by all the arrogance on display.

If Gerry Anderson had made this film, then no matter how bad it had turned-out, even if it had been pixel-for-pixel identical, at least it would have carried the authority necessary to be accepted.

Ugh, awful. But here's the paragraph in which I attempt to qualify my criticisms by finding something about it to praise:

The kids themselves. These roles could so easily have gone to children who couldn't act, but Brady Corbet (as Alan) and Vanessa Anne Hudgens (as Tintin) make a pair who are actually fun to watch when separated from the rest of the production. (which they extensively are) Soren Fulton (Fermat) and Sophia Myles (Lady Penelope) cover their corners well too. Ben Kingsley (the Hood) and Ron Cook (Parker) do the job they're paid to do, and probably got out of there quick afterwards.

I shall leave the final comment on this sorry indictment on modern remakes to Gerry Anderson himself, summing up his opinion to The Guardian over two years after the film's release:

"In fact, it was the biggest load of crap I have ever seen in my life."

Whoa, steady on there Gerry, surely it couldn't have been that bad...


(available here)
(review of Thunderbirds Are Go! here)
(review of Thunderbird 6 here)

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