July 30, 2004


THUNDERBIRDS / *1/2 (PG) (ROGER EBERT, 7/30/04, Chicago Sun-Times)

I run into Bill Paxton and Ben Kingsley occasionally, and have found them to be nice people. As actors, they are in the first rank. It's easy to talk to them, and so the next time I run into one of them, I think I'll just go ahead and ask what in the h-e-double-hockey-stick they were thinking of when they signed up for "Thunderbirds." My bet is that Paxton will grin sheepishly and Kingsley will twinkle knowingly, and they'll both say the movie looked like fun, and gently steer the conversation toward other titles. "A Simple Plan," say, or "House of Sand and Fog."

This is a movie made for an audience that does not exist, at least in the land of North American multiplexes: Fans of a British TV puppet show that ran from 1964 to 1966. "While its failure to secure a U.S. network sale caused the show to be canceled after 32 episodes," writes David Rooney in Variety, "the 'Supermarionation' series still endures in reruns and on DVD for funky sci-fi geeks and pop culture nostalgists." I quote Rooney because I had never heard of the series and, let's face it, neither have you. Still, I doubt that "funky" describes the sub-set of geeks and nostalgists who like it. The word "kooky" comes to mind, as in "kooky yo-yos."


Posted by Orrin Judd at July 30, 2004 10:35 AM

I bet his mon didn't let him watch cartoons.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 30, 2004 11:30 AM

I'm not sure if it was Ebert or another host of SNEAK PREVIEWS, but someone on this show once savaged the film RETURN TO OZ because it featured characters like Tik-Tok the robot, Billina the hen, and Jack Pumpkinhead, none of whom (according to this critic) appeared in the Oz books. Needless to say, ALL of those characters appeared in the Oz books.

Gotta love the logic which says a person ignorant of the source material is the superior of one who knows it. This from a guy who would likely belittle the person who didn't know what book CLUELESS was based on.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at July 30, 2004 11:58 AM

As someone familiar with Gerry Anderson Supermarionation, I consider the Thunderbirds movie to be the latest casualty of the "big-budget, live-action features mined from 30-year-old cheap TV animation" fad.

Using CGI virtual actors, they could have done a version where the virtual actors could have the "slightly artificial" look of the original marionettes but doing acting and actions no physical marionette could do. One of the appeals of Gerry Anderson Supermarionation was the "artificial look". The modelwork and SFX looked like models & miniature sets -- artificial -- and the marionette actors fit the sets -- artificial and stylized. Consistent. That was a large part of the Supermarionation "look".

When Gerry Anderson used live actors with his modelwork -- as in Space 1999 and Doppleganger/Journey to the Far Side of the Sun -- the effect was jarring between the obviously artificial modelwork and the live actors and real sets.

Posted by: Ken at July 30, 2004 12:22 PM

The only reason to read a Roger Ebert movie review any more is to see which anti-Bush message he's going to find in the movie.

Posted by: Chris B at July 30, 2004 1:03 PM

Yeah, it used to be that Siskel and Ebert were a good duo. If a movie had "two thumbs up", you could be pretty sure that it was good.

Now, with Siskel gone, Ebert and his new partner give "two thumbs up' for almost everything done by a big studio. Truly awful dreck has been given the once coveted "thumbs up" on a regular enough basis that their ratings are worthless. Ebert is now just a shill for the studios.

Posted by: BC Monkey at July 30, 2004 1:25 PM

I'm going tonight. I don't care.

Have you guys seen the clips for Captain Scarlet in hyperanimation???

And the BBC couldn't come to terms w/Terry Nation's estate. So, no Daleks in Dr. Who. Blasphemy!

Posted by: Sandy P at July 30, 2004 2:23 PM

So if Farenheit 911 had been done in Supermarionation with a puppet version of Michael Moore, I guess Roger would have hated the movie.

Posted by: John at July 30, 2004 2:32 PM

>So if Farenheit 911 had been done in
>Supermarionation with a puppet version of
>Michael Moore...

That might be worth seeing, just for the surrealism. (Too bad that Brit show Spitting Image isn't around anymore... could you imagine what they could do with Michael the Hutt?)

Posted by: Ken at July 30, 2004 6:32 PM

Jeez. _This_ is the guy who goes gaga over Hiyao Miyazaki? I'm going to a major anime convention (Otakon in Baltimore) tomorrow, and I will bet you ten dollars to a week's supply of doughnuts that I will find a whole bunch of Thunderbirds fans there who will at least be willing to give the movie more of a chance than Ebert did.

Posted by: Joe at July 30, 2004 9:36 PM


You're not exactly lowering the geek quotient there.

Posted by: oj at July 30, 2004 9:50 PM

If the label fits, I wear it. :D Anything you want from the dealer's room?

Posted by: Joe at July 31, 2004 4:57 AM