Thunderbirds is a 2004 British-American science-fiction action-adventure film directed by Jonathan Frakes, based on the 1960s TV series of the same name created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The film, written by William Osborne and Michael McCullers, was released on July 20, 2004 in the United Kingdom and July 30, 2004 in the United States.
When the top-secret rescue organization International Rescue is compromised by a villainous mastermind known as "The Hood", it's up to the young Alan Tracy and his friends to save the day.
Why It’s Not F.A.B.
- The main problem with the film is that it was made almost 40 years too late. Thunderbirds aired during the mid-1960s and was followed up by two feature-length theatrical films (Thunderbirds Are Go in 1966 and Thunderbird 6 in 1968). By the time this film was released, interest in the Thunderbirds franchise had waned after a brief revival in the mid-1990s.
- The older four Tracy brothers don't have much screen-time, effectively making them side characters in their own movie.
- Most of the characters bear little-to-no resemblance to their original designs, particularly the Tracy family and Tin-Tin.
- Many characters from the TV series are absent, including Grandma Tracy, Braman, Captain Hanson and Commander Norman.
- Excessive product placement from companies such as Wall's, Ben & Jerry's, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Ford, to the point it gets a bit too much to handle.
- In fact, you can see the Ford logo in every newscast!
- Speaking of Ford, FAB-1 is based off of an early-2000s Ford Thunderbird instead of a Rolls Royce like in the original.
- The film diverges so much from the source material that the official Wikipedia page has a list of inaccuracies.
- The International Rescue outfits look and feel more like suits from Star Trek: Enterprise. Their trademark blue colors and hats are also completely absent.
- In the show, International Rescue doesn't allow the Thunderbirds to be photographed, even going as far as to erase camera footage. In the film, however, they allow themselves to be filmed or photographed, which destroys the main point of them being a secret organisation.
- The Hood gets weaker every time he uses his psychic powers, making it hard to take him seriously.
- Tin-Tin has psychic powers like The Hood for some reason, even though she never had any in the original show.
- FAB-1 is able to turn into an airplane, even though it could only turn into a boat in the original.
- In the original show, Alan Tracy and Tin-Tin were around the same age as the other Tracy brothers, but in this film, they're teenagers.
- The film itself is almost an obvious rip-off of the Spy Kids films, as it has the same type of humour and the plot is similar to it.
- Laughable and weird fight scenes, such as the fight between Lady Penelope and Transom.
- Unnecessary and overused cartoon sound effects are inserted into the fight scenes, which will get irritating after a while.
- The characterization of the Hood has been botched in this film. In the original, he was a smart, mysterious and cunning criminal mastermind who wanted to learn the secrets of International Rescue and sell them on the black market. Here, he's portrayed as a generic, moustache-twirling villain who wants to use the Thunderbirds to rob the world's ten largest banks, which is a very weak and cliched motive.
- Brains' son Fermat (who was NEVER a part of the original show) is an extremely annoying and unlikable character.
- Cringeworthy and corny dialogue, such as The Hood's "Like a puppet on a string!" when mind-controlling Brains (though this is a reference to the original show).
- Brain's signature stuttering is exaggerated even more than in the original, to the point where it gets annoying fast.
- Overusage of gross-out humor, which the original show had none of, such as when Fermat compares the tracking liquid on Thunderbird 1's nose cone to snot.
- Compared to the large number of rescues in the original show, this film only has two rescue scenes (not counting the rescue on Thunderbird 5, which turned out to be a trap set by the Hood), which feels insulting to fans of the show. In fact, there are more rescues in the opening credits than in the entire film!
- Executive Meddling: Originally, Peter Hewitt and Karey Kirkpatrick were supposed to direct and write the film, their take on which would've been extremely faithful to the source material and appealed to older fans of the TV show. However, Working Title decided that American audiences wouldn't understand the film and demanded that they take it in a more kid-friendly direction, which led to Hewitt and Kirkpatrick quitting the project in frustration and being replaced by Jonathan Frakes and William Osborne.
- This film killed Jonathan Frakes' already-flagging career as a director.
- The models and VFX are pretty decent by 2004 standards.
- The Thunderbirds' designs look great, and (mostly) stick close to the original designs from the TV show.
- Busted's cover of the Thunderbirds theme song is very catchy.
- Decent acting, such as the late Bill Paxton as Jeff Tracy, Ben Kingsley as The Hood, Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope and Ron Cook as Parker.
- Amazing soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer and Ramin Djawadi.
- Speaking of the soundtrack, the full original soundtrack by Barry Gray (which was also fantastic) was only available to Fanderson members, but the 2004 film soundtrack is available to the public.
- The set designs are very well-done.
- The cinematography is gorgeous.
- "Damn it, Jeff! WAKE UP!"
Thunderbirds was heavily panned and criticized by both critics and audiences. Accusing the filmmakers of abandoning the concepts of the original series in favour of a Spy Kids-esque approach, Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 19% "rotten" rating with a consensus that states: "Live-action cartoon for kids.". On Metacritic, the film has weighted a score of 36 out of 100, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews", as well as a 4.2/10 on IMDb.
The late Gerry Anderson, who created the Thunderbirds series, watched the film and said "It was disgraceful that such a huge amount of money was spent with people who had no idea what Thunderbirds was about and what made it tick. It was the biggest load of crap I'd ever seen in my entire life!".
However, not all of them are negative, as some of them praised the acting and the models for being accurate to the show. Even the co-creator, Sylvia Anderson, said "I felt that I'd been on a wonderful Thunderbirds adventure. You, the fans, will, I'm sure, appreciate the sensitive adaptation and I'm personally thrilled that the production team have paid us the great compliment of bringing to life our original concept for the big screen. If we had made it ourselves (and we have had over 30 years to do it!), we could not have improved on this new version. It is a great tribute to the original creative team who inspired the movie all those years ago. It was a personal thrill for me to see my characters come to life on the big screen."
- Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio were both considered for the role of Alan Tracy.
- Rosamund Pike, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Lumley and Elizabeth Hurley were all considered for the role of Lady Penelope. Pike would eventually voice the character in the 2015 CGI reboot.