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Film / Thunderbirds

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Thunderbirds is a live-action/CGI action film directed by Jonathan Frakes, and starring Philip Winchester, Ben Kingsley, Bill Paxton and a young Vanessa Hudgens, released in 2004 by Universal. It is based on Gerry Anderson's famous Supermarionation show, Thunderbirds.

Its theme song Thunderbirds Are Go was a UK number one for the pop rock band Busted.

A very informative review of the movie- complete with lots of screencaps, tidbits about the movie's development, facts about the vehicles, and even pictures of the props- can be found here.


Thunderbirds provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Transom to Brains.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Brains is fiddling around with a neural net control system- basically allowing telekinesis. He succeeds in lifting a cell phone off his worktable- completely unaware he managed to lift the Mole in the background as well.
  • Action Girl:
    • Lady Penelope, even more than in the series.
    • Tin-Tin, unlike in the series.note 
  • Adaptational Badass: Not only Lady Penelope, who is a full Girly Bruiser here, but also The Hood- here, his psychic powers are seriously amped up (see below) and, unlike the original series, actually succeeds in his goal of hijacking the Thunderbird craft for his own ends. Bonus points for IR actually being aware of him this time (in the 60s series, The Hood's existence didn't seem to be known at all to IR- they were aware of "enemies", but not The Hood in particular).
    • Even Thunderbird 2 was given this treatment- now instead of having one pod containing one vehicle loaded in at a time, now it has multiple pods to store multiple vehicles and devices, including The Mole, Firefly, the Thunderizer and others, and the pods themselves can be reconfigurednote  The landing struts were also given a makeover, as the production team felt the original's struts were too flimsy for such a vehicle.
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  • A Father to His Men: Bill Paxton became this on the set to the other Tracy actors.
  • Age Lift: In all directions; even the Tracys' birth order is changed.
    • The series: Scott is the oldest at 26, John (25), Virgil (24), Gordon (22) and Alan (21).
    • The film: John is the oldest at 22, Virgil (20), Scott (18), Gordon (16) and Alan (14).
    • Brains, who is 25 in the series, is close to Jeff's age in the film.
    • Tin-Tin is in her mid-teens.
  • All There in the Manual: Much of the info about the Thunderbird craft- including abilities not seen or referenced in it- we noted in the "X-Ray Cross Sections" book. For instance, Thunderbird 5 is armed with a multi-purpose cannon to shoot down incoming space hazards like old rocket debris and meteor fragments.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version uses "Thunderbird - your voice -" by V6 for the theme song.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The Tracys are called off on another mission at the end of the film.
  • Animated Credits Opening: A very nice one, showing both the people and the vehicles of International Rescue.
  • The Artifact: The Stinger (below) is a remnant of a deleted scene where The Hood would've shot down the FAB-1 with his submarine- that's why Transom is seen trying to contact someone when they detect the FAB-1 flying in, but nothing happens.
    • Also, look closely in the Thunderbird 2 hangar- you'll see some jet-skis lying around that aren't used. In one script, these were dubbed "Thunderskis" and were to be used to rescue people from flooding bank vaults (part of The Hood's plan).
  • Butter Face: Transom's introduction has her climbing down a ladder in some very form-fitting Painted-On Pants, complete with Male Gaze... Then she turns around.
  • Call-Back:
    • "Fermat/Alan, my friend, what you don't know can't hurt you."
    • And this one:
      Jeff: Saving lives is a dangerous business. But it's what we do.

      Alan: I don't want to save your life. But it's what we do.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Lady Penelope is being attacked by the Hood's Evil Genius. All she has to say is this:
    Lady Penelope: Do you know how much a manicure costs these days?
  • Co-Dragons: The Hood has two main henchmen: Transom and Mullion.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The Tracy brothers, as shown in their portraits.
    • John: Orange
    • Virgil: Green
    • Scott: Blue
    • Gordon: Red
    • Alan: Yellow
  • Cool Car: The FAB-1, even if it isn't a Rolls-Royce this time around- the Ford Thunderbird it is now can fly and turn into a boat. (Apparently, they had offered Rolls-Royce the job to build a new FAB-1, but they declined because they were busy with creating the RR Phantom.)
  • Covered in Gunge: When Mullion and his goons break into the Thunderbird 2 hangar, Tin-Tin fires a ton of (oddly green colored) fire-retarding foam from the Firefly's turret.
  • Creator Cameo: Visual effects director Mark Nelmes is briefly seen as an ice-cream stand operator in London when Thunderbird 2 lands there; for added points, he's wearing the 1960s-style International Rescue hat. Visual effects supervisor Mike McGee is seen as one of the guys working the Tower Bridge bascule, and Frakes himself is one of the policemen at the end.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Parker.
    Henchman: You've broken my nose!
    Parker: Yes, that was the intention of the maneuver.
  • Demoted to Extra: The elder Tracy brothers are co-leads in the series. They're Distressed Dudes through most of the film.
  • Designated Girl Fight: When Lady Penelope and Parker take on the Hoods' henchman, Parker ends up fighting Mullion while Lady Penelope fights Transom.
  • Dining in the Buff: Lady Penelope drinks her tea while relaxing in the tub.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: A stressed-out Alan takes a hard dig at Fermat's stutter. Brains could probably handle it, but Fermat? NOT COOL.
  • Foreshadowing: During the Animated Credits Opening, we see the Mole rescue people from underground, but it leaves two people behind. This is what happened to The Hood prior to the movie- he had been running an illegal diamond mine operation when it collapsed- being one of the first missions for International Rescue. While Jeff rescued his brother, Kyrano, he left the Hood to die. While he survived, he developed an intense hatred towards the Thunderbirds and the Tracys from that point on.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At one point, we see a readout for Thunderbird 5- it's shown in one of its late concept designs with a couple of extra solar panels and a shorter antennae at the base. Additionally, at the bottom of the screen, there's also a readout for a "Thunderbird 6".
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Fermat's comment on how Tintin has "blossomed". Tintin's reaction is justified.
  • Girly Bruiser: Lady Penelope gets some Xenafication — and does so while wearing bright pink. She even uses her parasol as a weapon.
  • Heroism Equals Job Qualification: Alan Tracy gets made a full member of the team after saving the day... despite the fact he's only 14 YEARS OLD!!
  • An Insert: As an in-joke on the series' use of human hands in close-ups, the Thunderbird 1 launch sequence briefly has a puppet hand on a lever instead of Fermat's human hand.
  • Instant Costume Change: Lady Penelope keeps changing hairstyles and outfits between scenes when there logically isn't any place for her to do it; this was lampshaded on the DVD commentary.
  • Large Ham: The Hood.
  • Missing Mom: Notably, three fathers are in this show (Jeff, Kyrano, Brains) but only one mother; Onaha, apparently Tin-Tin's mother, who is not only absent from the original series, but without a single line of dialogue in her only rendition. Grandma Tracy getting Adapted Out means this can even apply to Jeff!
  • Mythology Gag: Actually, quite a few (including the above-mentioned insert with a puppet-hand).
    • When Thunderbird 2 lands in London, an ice-cream seller is wearing a hat much like the 1960s IR hat.
    • Busted's theme for the movie has one line- "Cause now, the boys are back in town, no strings to hold them down"- which references both the Tracys' nickname of the "Tracy boys" and the fact that they were once puppets.
    • Gordon comments that Alan may have "blown up" his previous school; that's a reference to one potential timeline provided in a Thunderbirds comic in which a young Alan caused damage to a school building when his experimental model rocket went haywire.
    • One of the control panels in the Tracy Island command center was marked with buttons that reference machines used in the series- but this was only known upon examination of the prop.
    • At one point, The Hood takes mental control of Brains and forces him to walk around, and he compares it to a puppet. The walk he does is very Supermarionation-esque.
    • The name "Thunderizer" dates back to a trading card collection for the original series (where it was given as the name for the "booster mortar" device seen in "Edge of Impact".
    • Lady Penelope has the emergency teapot-transmitter in her manor, and it plays a snippet of the "Thunderbird March".
  • Named by the Adaptation: Unlike the original series, they names "The Hood" and "Tracy Island" are actually spoken in dialogue; previously, only books and other off-screen materials had given the names.
  • Obstructive Code of Conduct: Averted. Unlike the old series, this version of International Rescue has no qualms about being known to the general public and they're frequently on the news, though nobody really knows who they are (and neither Tracy Island nor Thunderbird 5 seem to be common knowledge). On the other hand, one of the reasons they had the policy was so that their tech wouldn't fall into the wrong hands, which is what happens here. Admittedly, The Hood managed to do it by striking Thunderbird 5 with a missile to draw the Tracys out into space so he could take what he needed from Tracy Island- not exactly something you could be prepared for.
    • Also, when Jeff chews out Alan for messing around with Thunderbird 1, he specifically tells him he should've engaged the "anti-detection shields", which presumably help block peoples' efforts to track the craft to and from the island.
  • Oh, Crap!: "Brains! The monorail is down! Repeat, the monorail is down!"
  • Parent Service: Lady Penelope is clearly this; her "Hello Boys" scene sticking out spectacularly. She also gets a scene where she delivers orders to Parker while in the bath.
  • Phony Newscast: The movie somehow manages to shoehorn a reporter (the same reporter at that, and played by the director's wife Genie Francis to boot) into every scene in which the Thunderbirds appear in the outside world.
  • Precision F-Strike: From Brains of all people (in addition to his earlier attempt, after which a track in Hans Zimmer's score is named — "Fafafa... No Way!"):
    Brains: Damn it, Jeff, wake up!
    • To a lesser extent, Busted's theme song contains the line "T-birds kick some ass".
  • Product Placement: The Ford motor company provided many of the vehicles used in the film, and they're going to make damn sure you know it. To a far lesser extent, Unilever ice cream products are also given their dues (Ben and Jerry's is in the Tracy Island freezer, and the ice-cream stand Thunderbird 2 squashes in London is Heartbrand). The scene with Lady Penelope in the bath (see above) has her watching CNBC on another screen; by the time the movie was released, the NBCUniversal merger was on the verge of being completed.
  • Psychic Powers:
    • The Hood's powers are given a massive beef-up, from simply reading Kyrano's mind in the show to actual telekinesis and PG-rated Mind Rape.
    • Tin-Tin also has psychic powers.
  • Race Lift: Kyrano and his family are now from India instead of Malaysia. Still Asian, just a different part of Asia.
  • Reality Ensues: A variant: The production crew came to the conclusion that if Thunderbird 1 launched beside the house as it does in the series, then there would be severe damage to the building. The solution? Add a smaller diving pool between the house and the main swimming pool. (An effect that was planned but never utilized for the film was that the diving pool was supposed to raise up, spilling water over the patio area as the main pool slid back underneath it.)
  • Self-Deprecation: On the DVD Commentary, Jonathan Frakes introduces himself as "the alleged director of Thunderbirds."
  • Ship Tease: Between Jeff and Lady Penelope.
  • Speech Impediment: B-B-Brains' t-tendency to s-stutter is t-t-t-t-taken t-to r-r-ridiculous e-e-extremes.
  • Stealth Pun: Penelope's FAB1 was changed from a Rolls-Royce to a Ford Thunderbird. (There are also more Ford Thunderbirds floating around; a red one in the Tracy Island hangar, and a pink one at Lady Penelope's estate.)
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Both Lady Penelope and Jeff have cell phone ringtones that play the leitmotif of the original series' "Thunderbird March".
  • The Stinger: Right before the credits roll, we see Penelope and Parker in a pink lifeboat off Tracy Island, with Penny telling Parker to pedal faster.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Though it didn't have the obsession with pyrotechnics the series had, there's still a Russian oil-rig that goes up at the start, showcasing the Thunderbirds in action.
  • Take That Me: Jonathan Frakes referring to himself as the "alleged director" of this rudderless mess.
  • Team Hand-Stack: Done by Alan, Fermat and Tin-Tin twice.
  • Teen Superspy: Alan, Fermat and Tin-Tin.
  • To the Batpole!: Here, each of the Tracy brothers have their own door with their faces on them, which take them to whichever Thunderbird they need.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: In the climax, Thunderbird 2 manages to get to London from Tracy Island (in the freaking South Pacific) in the amount of time it takes Parker to pick a lock, a lock which is even implied to be straightforward for him to pick. Thunderbird 1 proceeds to make the same journey in the amount of time it takes the Mole to drill under the Thames into the "Bank of London".
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The Thunderbird vehicles could be justified as being more advanced tech. The year isn't stated in the film, but the monorail in London is stated to be the "Olympic Monorail" and the team is called away by a "Madame President" at the end. (The trailer stated it was 2010- but feel free to take that with a grain of salt.)
  • UST: A fair bit between Tin-Tin and Alan.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Transom stuffs some of the stolen jewelry down her cleavage when no-one is looking.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: "Who will rescue the rescuers?"
  • The Worf Effect: Lady Penelope and Parker deliver an effortless Curb-Stomp Battle to the Hood's goons largely so he can look more impressive when he defeats them with his Psychic Powers.


Example of: