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I remember back in the 1960s the family were out for a walk and we were
passing a cinema. We had nothing else to do, so we went in to see this.
I had never been particularly impressed with the TV version in black
and white (at that time in Britain). But I was very impressed with the
film. In full glorious colour, and the special effects looked highly
realistic on the big screen - they really did.
It's kids' entertainment for children aged from 7 to 700. The fact it lasted longer than a TV episode doesn't matter.
You get a great exciting story, lots of journeys into space in a blistering adventure that'll steam up Brains's glasses and set his bow tie spinning.
Saw the film again recently, this time with the eyes of an adult. Saw the dream sequence set in the night club. I was amazed at the attention to detail with The Shadows. Not only was each puppet almost a perfect model of Hank, Bruce, John and Brian, but the little Burns guitars were perfect in every detail, right down to the trade mark scroll head. Beautifully done. The singer was Cliff Richard Junior. Oh, well, you can't get everything right!
In the 1960's, British TV producer Gerry Anderson and his wife, Sylvia,
went about making a series of shows based around a highly functional
set of marionettes which where built around a process called
Supermarionation, a speech syncronization system designed to have the
puppet's mouth move in sync with the voice actor reading it's lines.
Combining it with some of the most fanciful designs of futuristic societies, they spawned a slew of shows including "Joe 90", about a boy with the ability to be programmed like a computer to do anything, from pilot a stolen jet fighter to perform brain surgery: "Fireball XL-5", a galactic adventure onboard a massive space cruiser, "Stingray", the tales of a super sub working for the World Aquatic Security Patrol ("W.A.S.P."), "Captain Scarlet", tales of an indestructible agent in a war against unseen Martian invaders called The Mysterons, et al.
Perhaps the Anderson's most famous and popular show in the hearts and minds of it's fans is "Thunderbirds". The background is simple. John Tracy, former astronaut and billionaire industrialist, decides to use his wealth to help the world by creating "International Rescue", a secret force of super vehicles designed by an in-house genius known simply as "Brain" and manned by his sons, each a superb athlete and trained expert in their fields (It is no doubt to some that his sons would have been Xtreme sports enthusiasts given the times). Brain's creations are the Thunderbirds, a set of highly specialized rescue and response vehicles each designed for specific purposes.
Thunderbird One is a hypersonic VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) vehicle used as a mobile command center. Thunderbird Two is a heavy lifter, capable of transporting pods containing rescue equipment to any location, from a subterranean "Mole" to the aquatic Thunderbird Four. Thunderbird Three is a space ship, launched from under the Tracy Island estate's pool (the vehicles launch sequences are themselves something to behold, since International Rescue is a secret organization, the deployment of the vehicles must also be the same, leading to some of the most unique ways of converting the Tracy Island compound into a launch & retrieval complex). As for Thunderbird Five, it is a monitoring station orbiting in space, listening in on the world's airwaves for the call.
A pink, armoured futuristic Rolls Royce bearing the license plate FAB-1 also come into play, as the property of one Lady Penelope, British aristocrat and undercover agent for International Rescue. Driven by a former resident of Wormwood Scrubs Prison known simply as Parker, it is bullet-proof,has an exceptionally heavy bit or ordinance under it's hood and is capable of Hydrofoil work on the water.
The way that they pull this off without it turning into a low rent kiddie show was from the contributions of such people as Derek Meddings, designer or the ships as well as the space craft and miniatures for movies like "Krull", "Moonraker", "Goldeneye" and many James Bond films. Barry Gray's scoring duties bring real tension and drama to the adventure.
Anderson was no slouch himself, creating many inventive effects shots using the highly detailed miniatures. This movie, surrounding the attempted sabotage and eventual rescue of a Mars exploration mission, displays the tools of Anderson's craft quite well. Look for another movie, Thunderbird 6, as well as newly digitally remastered releases of the original episodes on the shelves (and no, they did not digitally erase the wires). It is truly one of the best guilty pleasures from the past.
It also marked the end of Supermarionation, for with the exception of one puppet show ("Terrahawks"), Anderson's productions went into live actors, but still carried on the traditions of awesome miniatures with shows like "U.F.O", "Space:1999" and "Space Precinct".
Unfortunately,the big budget adaptation of the series, released in 2005, directed by Johnathan Frakes (Commander Will Riker of "Star Trek:The Next Generation"), was a muddled, childish piece of dreck which totally ruined the hopes of many aging fans of the original show for a decent and reverent homage to Anderson's vision, which probably explains his refusal to have anything to do with the movie.
I grew up on Thunderbirds repeats as a kid. The excitement, the
explosions, the majestic Barry Gray scores... It was a wonderful
programme. Even now I have a great soft spot for it and own the whole
series on DVD. Though the episodes now seem quite padded here and there
and I watch it with much more cynicism than I did as a child, I still
love it. A good episode of Thunderbirds is the perfect nostalgia trip
Sad to say, then, that the Thunderbirds movies retain little of the qualities that made the TV show such great fun. Perhaps it's the script: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson were far better leaving the scripting duties to other writers as they couldn't write decent dialogue for peanuts. They wrote Thunderbirds' debut episode, which has awful expository dialogue and lots of pointless sequences that go nowhere - but the episode as a whole is still a classic due to the frenetic atmosphere, the sense of doom and the fantastically imaginative rescue (it's the episode where the Fireflash plane lands on three little buggies). "Thunderbirds are Go!" is just horrendously boring. The first ten minutes are taken up with the Zero-X ship being assembled. Very slowly. Later on we have a long dream sequence where Alan imagines going out for a date with Lady Penelope, which features Cliff Richard and the gang having a sing-song (a musical segment in a Thunderbirds movie - what were they thinking?!) and the entire subplot of what the Zero-X astronauts get up to on Mars has no bearing on International Rescue at all.
The Tracy brothers get hardly anything to do in their own film (John, as is customary, has about 5 lines of dialogue, and Gordon just sits about looking glum - even everybody's favourite, Virgil, has barely any screen time at all). Nor, in fact, are the Thunderbird craft used all that often. In 100 minutes of film there's only one real rescue (featuring Thunderbird 2), with IR overseeing operations at the beginning of the film - which involves them sitting around and peering contentedly at control panels. You'd think with 100 minutes - double the length of one of the TV episodes - the Andersons could've plotted loads of thrilling situations and rescues that involved all the Tracy brothers and their Thunderbird machines, but it was not to be. Thunderbirds 1 and 3 swoop about for a few seconds. Thunderbird 4 isn't even in it (despite being on the DVD cover). Nor are the pod vehicles present - couldn't we even have had the Mole drilling away at something? It really is a tedious film. And that's not even mentioning Alan Tracy ignoring his girlfriend, Tin-Tin, and fantasising about Lady P instead. Way to be a good role-model for the kiddies, Alan. Then again he was a snot in the telly series too...
Maybe I'm being too hard on what is meant to be an inoffensive kids' film featuring explosions and great model work. But then again the TV show was a genuinely exciting and exhilarating programme, which, at its best, provided great entertainment. "Thunderbirds are Go!" has an uneventful plot, awful dialogue, no decent set-pieces, and - the cardinal sin - a boring rescue that doesn't even utilise the Thunderbird craft to the best of their abilities. It's difficult to imagine kids being wowed by it. You'd be far better off going back to the telly series. Show your kids the Fireflash episodes, or that brill one where giant alligators attacked a manor house. Heck, show them the daft one where Parker encouraged everybody to play bingo for half an hour. Both younger viewers and adults looking for warm nostalgia will be disappointed with "Thunderbirds are Go!" Avoid.
I have just been watching this movie and felt that as the only other comment on it was some excuse for a review by some person with rather questionable views above, i thought i'd lend my opinion (after all, i couldn't be any worse). "Thunderbirds Are Go", the first full-length feature film version of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's top fantasy series of the 60's is quite a landmark indeed.
Landmark (?), i hear you ask. Well, yes. The whole Thunderbirds series was nothing but pure Hollywood at it's best; and this movie - as well as the one that came afterwards - only served to expand that tradition, whilst still maintaining the elements and formula that made it famous in the first place in 1965. The movie, has style, wit, incredible drama, and for its time, an astonishing view of the mid-21st.Century. Of course, most of it was pure fantasy and could never ever be real. The amount of times i've heard it said that the Thunderbirds machines couldn't even get off the ground is enormous. But that's ok, it's fantasy. And what good would a decent adventure be, if it didn't transport you out of reality and into a fascinating fantasy world where everything was different! As i say, the best Hollywood tradition. And of course, what made these productions so very special (at least to us Brits), was that 1. it was British, and 2. the heroes were all Puppets! Unbelievable to this day, i know. Yet as we are soon to be confronted by a million dollar live-action Thunderbirds epic, i think it is true to point out, that the main charm in the Thunderbirds adventures WAS the fact that they were acted by Puppets. So charming, so much a throwback to our own innocence (let alone a throwback to a much more innocent time when it was made); how could that be improved upon? The model work and special effects, especially the Zero-X Space-probe, are all extremely effective (as you would expect from Derek Meddings), and whether you are a Thunderbirds fan or not, it will be hard to knock this piece of Movie/TV history off it's perch. This movie being years ahead of its time, a great piece of fun and a fine addition to a classic series.
Oh, what a wonderful movie this was to me when I was a child of the sixties! Just enough British sensibility to be "foreign" and different, enough action and plot to hold my interest and, probably pretty important, the rocket ships and planes resembled my 1960s toys so it made me want to rush home and play with them, imagining very closely that I too was a member of the Thunderbird team. Seeing this again after all these years, it still retains some of that playtime magic and I can still see why it held my sttention as a youth. Recommended for the young and (forgive the hopeless cliche, but it is the only one that fits...) young at heart.
Do you appreciate beautiful models? No, not THAT kind of beautiful
models...I mean this kind!
This is the first of two feature film versions of the `Thunderbirds' TV show. If you're on the wavelength of this type of entertainment (i.e., willing to ignore the fact that the characters are puppets, and to simply accept them as real), you may find this to be very engaging viewing.
`Thunderbirds are GO!' makes use of a good number of the sets and puppets from the TV show, and throws in some new constructions. It doesn't bother explaining who any of the characters are, however, so if you're not familiar with the series, it may be difficult to tell which characters are the `stars' and which play supporting roles. Regardless, you will see amazing model work and puppetry, and the very naturalistic, serious, story-conscious approach typical of Gerry Anderson's work.
The `Supermarionation' method was designed to allow the filmmakers total control over the look of the characters--impossible with real actors--and a means to depict spectacular action at the fraction of the cost it would take were it realized with conventional full-size sets. But the sets, models and puppets are lovingly crafted, and cost a pretty penny to produce; in fact, the original shows were the most expensive British television produced at that time.
If you're lucky enough to see this feature in its original widescreen version, you will see the Supermarionation look in beautiful frame compositions! I'd love to see this in a theatre sometime. Grab this up at your local video store if they have it!
WOWZERS!!! What a classic of sixties cinema silliness! TV's
Thunderbirds are brought to the screen for a feature-length outing
complete with goofy anonymous foreign perpetrators, bizarre dialog and
lots of flying animated toys! This is a film that really should be seen
at least once by everybody interested in film-making. Before I discuss
the plot, let's talk about what the film is really about. Because the
plot is just a distraction. This film is about making a film with
marionettes and toys in the place of actors and special effects. Now,
before you close your browser and head to Blockbuster to NOT RENT
Thunderbirds, think about this - the film-makers, improbably, ACTUALLY
PULL IT OFF! This film is entertaining and watchable, but more for its
inventiveness and experimentalism than anything else.
The plot is honestly not worth discussing, and would have made for a truly awful film had it not been done with puppets and toys. It is a purely fantasy vision of the 21st century, though some of the technology used in it is no less ridiculous than - say - that which appeared in Star Trek Voyager. If you've seen the Thunderbirds TV show you already know exactly what to expect, and this film really amounts to two or three episodes stitched together with a very fine thread. Basically, the Thuderbirds are a family (all boys, of course, one has to wonder how they reproduced), and a couple of mystery women (one is an elegant but unpretty female James Bond type, and the other seems to serve no real purpose) who live in and run an International security base, and have incredible technical and piloting skills, allowing them to carry out very dangerous aerial missions at very high speed (it helps that they are made of wood, I guess). The central plot, if there is one, involves NASA's first manned space flight to Mars and two attempts (one sabotaged by a very unpleasant looking spy) and the second ... well... I won't spoil it. Of course, it's the Thunderbirds to the rescue in both cases.
As a rule, I do not like masks, elaborate costumes and puppets. In fact, I remember despising the Thunderbirds TV show when I was a very young hardcore sci fi fan, because of the scary bobbleheaded characters and the poor use of the sci-fi genre. I was too young to understand what was really going on. What saves this film for me today is its very good sense of aesthetics. The sets are interesting and detailed. Even the monsters (occupying a very short segment about 2/3rds of the way through) are innovative and interesting. Despite the fact that the special effects are ridiculous, you keep watching because its fascinating to see how the film-makers accomplish each effect. You also keep watching because even though the voice talent is unrelentingly average the animated marionettes manage to do better body language than many contemporary flesh and blood actors.
I am not sure Thunderbirds is a film I will see again, but I am glad I saw it once.
International Rescue make their big-screen debut in a fantastic
Supermarionation adventure which puts many modern summer blockbusters to
Impressive ( if now dated ) special effects and model sequences, together with a strong script and interesting characters ( and of course, Barry Gray's wonderful music ) make this a real treat.
A curiosity for fans only. Thunderbirds was an early 60's UK TV show (50
mins format). It was original because it used marionettes (mechanised
puppets) and superb models of aircraft, spaceships, nuclear powerplants and
the like, usually exploding at some point.
The first 10 minutes of this movie sets the tone - the slow and boring construction of a martian spaceship just before it takes off from earth (although it is amazing to think it predated the current space shuttle concept by twenty odd years). The rest of the movie plays like an overextended TV episode. The reduction of well-loved characters to caricatures is a disappointment. For instance, Jeff Tracy (the father and chief of the International Rescue organisation) is just plain cranky and unreasonable (and annoyingly keeps saying Thunderbirds Are Go even when no-one else is around). Scott and Virgil (the brothers who are the main pilots) are bossy and a walking doormat respectively. Gordon Tracy seems to be channeling Adam Sandler, and Alan (the hero of the piece) is so petulant he'd put your 12 year old sister to shame. Other characters have had personality enemas (particularly Lady Penelope).
But there are three really outstandingly bad parts. Alan has a dream sequence where Cliff Richard and the Shadows do a little music video'. Forget about the 60's being the decade of rebellion even by Sir Cliff's standards this song is terrible. Then there is the crash of the giant spaceship into the earth. The crash looks like a model hitting cardboard houses'. Even the TV episodes got the explosions right (by filming at high speed and then slowing down to make the bangs look real' and heavy'). Finally, the last scene is just bone cringingly embarrassing, even for kids. I suppose things have changed in the last forty years, but are we really suppose to believe that a 21year old astronaut is still treated by his family like he's 12? And if so, why was he given the central task to complete a dangerous rescue instead of one of his older brothers? (And why did he use a screwdriver to secure wires when twisting the ends together would have done?).
See the TV show instead.
I was a fan of the Anderson's work as a kid but I never got around to
watching Thunderbirds - until today when I watched Thunderbirds Are GO
for the very first time. I can't believe I was actually biting my nails
over a puppet movie! The explosions easily out-do anything Michael Bay
has ever done!
Now I want to seek out episodes of the Thunderbirds series to see if they live up to the movie. I'm also curious about a more recent live-action effort of Gerry Anderson's that just came out on DVD: Space Precinct.
And I definitely need to watch Thunderbirds Are GO a few more times to see if it lives up to my first impression!
(It's now a few days later & Barry Gray's music has been stuck in my head the whole time!)
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