'Thunderbirds' Are Go, To Uneven Reviews

By Michelle
July 25, 2004 - 9:16 PM

The first reviews of Thunderbirds, directed by Jonathan Frakes (Riker) - who also helmed Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection among other movies - are mixed, with some critics praising the enthusiastic campiness of the production while others complained that even such actors as Ben Kingsley and Anthony Edwards were stiff and unimpressive.

In this live adaptation of the cult classic television series, evil mastermind The Hood (Kingsley) sends Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) and his four eldest sons into outer space, then attempts to steal the Thunderbirds craft in their absence, leaving Tracy's youngest son to put matters right.

  • The Hollywood Reporter called the film "smart and fast-moving entertainment for children", praising the screenplay by William Osborne and Michael McCullers and stating that Thunderbirds "may be the prettiest movie all year, rendered in high style and brilliant colors." Though the trade publication said that the movie "expertly targets kids", it added that parents nostalgic for Saturday morning serials would not be bored.

  • On the other hand, the UK's Telegraph gave the film a brutal review, calling the cast "more wooden than the puppets in the original TV show" and the visuals a "quite cretinous travesty of the original series." Director Frakes "has done away...with any sense of the romance of technology. The cars and space stations provoke no whoops of delight or awe."

  • The News & Star was somewhat more pleased with Thunderbirds, calling it "a vision of glorious kitsch." Frakes, notes the paper, "directs at a brisk pace, seamlessly integrating the special effects, and he teases out solid performances from the youngest actors." In fact the biggest complaint of the review was that the British institution of the original Thunderbirds TV show suffered "shameless Americanisation."

  • "Frakes really ought to have done better; after all, he's Commander Riker from the USS Enterprise! But he doesn't manage to inject any elements of innovation and excitement into the film," stated The Irish Examiner, which rated the film a 3 out of 5. "A lot of today's audience won't really grasp just how popular Jeff Tracy, Lady Penelope, Parker and the brothers were, so they will have to judge them on this film alone. And it's disappointing."

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