Starring: Sylvia Anderson, Peter Dyneley, David Graham
Director: David Lane
Running Time: 93 mins
Thunderbirds Are GO is a British film about a mission to Mars that fails due to sabotage, leaving International Rescue to aid in the second attempt at lift-off.
It may not spark awe in the eyes of today’s kids, but there’s something so irresistibly cool about the original Thunderbirds that’s borne out on the big screen here. Complete with meticulous detail, fantastic puppetry and brilliant imagination, there’s so much to love here, however this movie doesn’t quite manage to tell the same high-octane stories as the original TV show.
That’s something to bear in mind before you watch Thunderbirds Are GO. If you’re looking for big, fast-paced action and thrills, there are episodes of the TV series that tick those boxes far better. This movie, however, moves very slowly, with overlong launch sequences, slow-paced action and even a random ten-minute dream sequence to boot. In effect, it’s a normal 50 minute episode that’s strung out to feature-length, and to its own detriment.
As a result, this movie won’t be quite as spectacular if it’s your first introduction to Thunderbirds. However, for the already-initiated, this film still has so many of the things that make the series so unique and so entertaining.
First off, the attention to detail in making the film is second to none. Along with the excellent puppetry, Gerry Anderson’s creation is complete with spectacular use of models that brings a hugely impressive scale to the movie.
You’d be hard pressed to say that the machines and settings in Thunderbirds Are GO don’t feel entirely life-size, even though they’re shot on small stages with an ingenious use of perspective and camera angles. What’s more, with exquisitely-made models of both the crafts and the locations, there’s no denying what a spectacular labour of love this film is.
The puppets too, work brilliantly as the lead characters of the movie. You might think that they’re an outdated way to tell the story, but it is amazing how quickly you forget that they’re just marionettes, thanks to the film’s impressive directing and excellent range of voice performances.
This movie doesn’t quite bring to life the classic ensemble of characters in the way that the TV show does, with only brief look-ins for the main members of International Rescue in exchange for a lot of focus on Lady Penelope. That said, Penelope is by far the stand-out character here, and brings much-needed energy to a film that often languishes.
And that’s the disappointing thing about Thunderbirds Are GO. Pacing has always been an issue in the show, but that, alongside the shorter running times, seemed to work in tandem with the use of marionettes and the excellent attention to detail.
This movie, however, really struggles to ever get up to speed, with only brief action sequences interspersed by long, inactive periods. The opening twenty minutes are little more than a series of launch sequences, while the film also bizarrely decides to spend ten minutes in the middle following Alan and Lady Penelope on a fantasy night out to see Cliff Richard and the Shadows which, of course, has no relevance to the rest of the movie.
It’s a real shame, because Thunderbirds is such a cool, exciting and imaginative property that deserves better on the big screen. This movie isn’t a masterpiece of storytelling, and it’s hardly going to inspire awe in the children of today. However, for fans of the classic series and lovers of meticulous, exquisite movie making, there’s still so much to love about it, which is why I’m giving Thunderbirds Are GO a 7.0 overall.