Running Time: 87 mins
Rated: Rated PG
There are two approaches to reviewing Thunderbirds: the first is by those who saw the series on television with its puppetry and animation and will be eager to see whether their memories have been honoured in this live action adaptation; the second is by those who never saw the television series and who are looking at Thunderbirds as a stand-alone film. This reviewer belongs to the latter group.
Maybe because it is directed by Jonathan Frakes, who appeared in the latterday Star Trek films and directed one of them, but there are Trekky moments, especially in the conception of the chief villain, The Hood, played with generally quiet but sadistic relish by Ben Kingsley (especially his power to immobilise opponents by the stare of his cat's eyes) as well as his odd-looking associates. (For a while, it looked as though the film was over-mocking anyone with glasses who had to be a brilliant nerd, those who stammered and a villain with both glasses and buck teeth, but in the middle there are some rebukes for those who laugh at other's limitations or eccentricities).
What the film seemed most reminiscent of was the Spy Kids series. While the Tracy family, Dad and four sons (plus Alan who is still at school and on the receiving end of some of Dad's disapproval but who, of course, with the help of two young friends, saves the day) are the Thunderbirds, they are not spies. Rather, they are an elite squad who can turn up at a moment's notice (well, perhaps two or three, but their spaceship like vehicles really are fast) and remedy flood, fire or even dredge a monorail carriage from the Thames.
Bill Paxton is a sturdy goody with Anthony Edwards almost unrecognisable as the resident boffin. Sophia Myles, rather pretty (and always) in pink and Ron Cook as her unflappable chauffeur - they live a rather Lara Croft way of life - are the Thunderbirds' allies.
This is a film that seems geared to young teenagers in an old-fashioned Boys' Own Adventure way that has to learn to work in a team, with the bespectacled brains and that Boy's Own Adventures have to make way for Girl's Adventures too.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.