Thunderbirds (2004)

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Released 19-Jan-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Creating The Action
Featurette-Tracy Island Revealed
Featurette-Lady P & Parker: Fun and Stunts
Featurette-FAB 1: More Than a Car
Featurette-Lady Penelope's Pink World
Music Video-Thunderbirds By Busted
Audio Commentary-Jonathan Frakes (Director)
Game-Hood vs Thunderbirds
Trailer-Shrek 2, Barbie as The Princess and The Pauper
Trailer-Two Brothers, The Land Before Time 10
Trailer-Balto-The Wings of Change
Featurette-Launch-Launches The Craft
Biographies-Character-Facts- Information About The Craft
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 90:44
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jonathan Frakes

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Brady Corbet
Bill Paxton
Soren Fulton
Vanessa Anne Hudgens
Ben Kingsley
Anthony Edwards
Sophia Myles
Ron Cook
Philip Winchester
Lex Shrapnel
Dominic Colenso
Ben Torgersen
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Ramin Djawadi
James Michael Dooley
Mel Wesson

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "Thunderbirds are go!" Going downhill that is... Over the last 40 years, the 1960s British television series Thunderbirds has achieved cult status, and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood was to cash in on their international popularity. But, with actors almost as wooden as the marionettes they replaced, and with $US70 million to burn, Universal Pictures has managed to take something unique and special and turn it into instantly forgettable garbage.

    The husband and wife team of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson produced at least ten marionette (okay, so Gerry called it "supermarionation") series for television, including Stingray and Supercar. Their most famous, Thunderbirds, premiered on UK television in 1965.

    Set in 2063, the Thunderbirds followed the exciting adventures of International Rescue, a secret organisation dedicated to daring and large-scale rescues. Hidden in a remote, high-tech Island, International Rescue was founded by ex-astronaut and millionaire, Jeff Tracy. His five dashing (for puppets) sons manned five top-secret (and numbered) Thunderbirds. Many episodes also featured the lovely Lady Penelope, and her butler/side-kick Parker.

    An immediate hit, the Thunderbirds have since achieved cult status, and it is not uncommon to see the odd Thunderbirds t-shirt out on the street almost 40 years later. They have well and truly entered popular culture. For example, consider the well-known band (of a few years ago) who was named after them, Fabulous Thunderbirds. (They had the country-rock hit Tuff Enuff). Indeed, when I attended the Melbourne Cup a few weeks ago, there was a small army of men wearing (very accurate) replicas of the Thunderbirds full costumes.

    During its run, 32 hour-long episodes were made, and at least two feature-length productions, Thunderbirds Are Go! and Thunderbird 6.

    In this obvious Spy Kids rip-off, billionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy (Bill Paxton) is troubled by his wayward teenage-son, Alan (Brady Corbet). A dreamer, Alan is keen to become an International Rescue hero like his father, but he is too young and irresponsible. Unexpectedly, Alan gets his chance to prove himself when the villainous The Hood (Ben Kingsley) lures the team away, and strands them on a damaged satellite. So, in true Spy Kids style, it's up to Alan to rescue them, and foil The Hood's dastardly plan. Alan is aided by the nerdy Fermat (Soren Fulton), and the helpful Tin-Tin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens). Lady Penelope (Sophia Myles) also pops up occasionally to lend a (well-manicured) hand.

    A weak and unimaginative script, backed up with very clumsy direction by Jonathan Frakes (Riker from Star Trek the Next Generation), results in a very heavy-handed approach to the themes of responsibility and teamwork. Indeed, the movie grows very tedious very quickly.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    As often observed, it often seems that the worst films get the best transfers, and this is no exception.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    While a few scenes looked intentionally soft, the sharpness is good overall,. Consider, for example, the detailed shot of the computer screens at 31:56. The black level is good, and the shadow detail is also fine. For example, look at the scene in the dark lair at 35:52.

    The colour is amazing throughout, with a well-saturated use of bold primary colours. The skin tones are accurate.

    There are no problems with MPEG artefacts, but film-to-video artefacts appear in the form of aliasing throughout. For example, look at the shimmer on the window ledges at 3:43.

    A few tiny film artefacts were noticeable, but this is a pristine print. Occasionally some edge enhancement can be spotted, but it's not very noticeable.

    English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are provided for the feature, and English subtitles are provided for the Audio Commentary. They were both accurate.

    This is a Dual Layer disc, with the layer change placed at 73:23.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The feature only offers one audio option: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). The Audio Commentary is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine throughout.

    The musical score is credited to Ramin Djawadi and Hans Zimmer, and there is also a re-working of the well-known original theme music by Busted.

    There is considerable surround presence and activity throughout. The rear speakers are used to support the score and provide a lot of ambience. For effect, at times, the score is very prominent in the rears, such as at 72:25.

    The subwoofer is also utilised very heavily throughout, and the LFE track really does bring the power and size of the Thunderbird Ships to life, such as the roar of Thunderbird 2's engines at 64:34.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are a few extras, although they are hard to find due to the worst menu structure I have ever seen.


    The menu is designed to look like a Thunderbird cockpit, and it is the most confusing, frustrating, illogical, disordered, annoying, and non-user-friendly DVD menu structure I have ever seen. Viewers are forced to blindly find their ways through multiple menu structures, with nothing clearly marked. For example, if you select Director's Commentary (if you can find it), you then have to navigate through a series of further screens and menus before you can play the movie with the commentary.

    From what I can work out, hitting the "Launch" button on any menu screen will play a short clip of a Thunderbird ship being launched. Hitting the "Facts" button provides some information about the Thunderbird ship featured in that menu screen, (unless you're in the Lady Penelope themed menu, which features Lady Penelope's FAB 1 car).

Featurette-Creating The Action (7:37)

    A quick look behind-the-scenes at the movement from script to story-board to shooting. This extra is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Featurette-Tracy Island Revealed (9:17)

    A quick look at the island used, as Tracy Island, in the beautiful Seychelles. This extra is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Featurette-Lady P & Parker: Fun and Stunts (2:50)

    The actors playing Lady Penelope and Parker discuss their training for the fight sequences. This extra is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Featurette-FAB 1: More Than a Car (3:24)

    A quick look at Lady Penelope's FAB 1 in the movie. Interestingly, unlike the television series, Rolls-Royce didn't want to be associated with this movie. As a result, Ford now provide Lady Penelope's pink FAB 1 car. It's just not the same is it? This extra is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Featurette-Lady Penelope's Pink World (4:08)

    Sophia Myles discuss the character of Lady Penelope, her wardrobe, and her affinity with all that is pink. This extra is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Music Video-Thunderbirds By Busted (3:30)

    This music video is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

Audio Commentary-Jonathan Frakes (Director)

    Frakes provides a fairly screen-specific commentary, in which he comments on everything from the actors to the locations used. There are also a few anecdotes along the way. Considering that this is his first really big directing job (outside of Star Trek), and by the time the commentary was recorded he would have been aware of the box office disaster, Frakes is pretty upbeat throughout.

Game-Hood vs Thunderbirds

    One of the tedious kids' games using the DVD remote to navigate around a map.

Theatrical Trailers

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Thunderbirds is due for release on DVD in Region 1 on December 21 2004, in both widescreen and 'full-screen' versions. From what I can tell, our versions will be much the same, with some variation to the trailers included.

    The R4 also seems identical to the R2 version, except they get a trailer for Billy Elliot the Musical, and miss out on trailers for Barbie as The Princess and The Pauper and Two Brothers. Interestingly, we all miss out on a trailer for Thunderbirds itself.


    Aimed directly at kids, Thunderbirds often appears to be merely a feature-long commercial for the inevitable merchandise (especially toy Thunderbirds).

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is also very good.

    The extras lack any depth, just like the movie.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Friday, December 03, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Why it is that the worst films get the best transfers... - cztery
Directors' other movies - cztery
Fabulous Thunderbirds..... come on! - cztery
Well, it was better than I expected - cztery
Good movie, great fun - cztery
If you are the RIGHT Audience, the film is good. - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)