I absolutely fucking loved Thunderbirdswhen I was growing up. Gerry Anderson’s puppet-lead classic was always a staple in our house. My sisters and I enjoyed nothing more than watching the dramatic exploits of International Rescue: well, except that one where those men got horrifically burnt when the Sidewinder fell into a pit. Of course, I always wanted to be a member of International Rescue and would have leapt at the chance to pilot Thunderbird 2. As a girl I should probably have dreamed of being Lady Penelope but as a child I always wanted to be in the thick of the action instead of being driven around in a bight pink car. I also realise that Thunderbirds 1 and 3 are probably way cooler but Virgil got to pilot all of those cool vehicles. Scott may have been first on the scene but he was fucking useless until Thunderbird 2 showed up. The fact that he was also the most feminine of the brothers may have had something to do with it. So yeah, Virgil was always my fave Tracey brother and it always upset me when halfway through series 2 his voice changed: it was too fucking weird. So imagine how I felt when I saw his new face in ITV’s updated new Thunderbirds Are Go.
Obviously the biggest change is the lack of puppets and the introduction of CGI characters. There is something a bit odd seeing the slightly familiar brothers rendered in a more realistic manner. Although, aside from the change in their proportions the Tracey family aren’t actually all that realistic: it looks like the fucking Sims. The animation is one of the most disappointing features of Thunderbirds Are Goand fail to produce anywhere near the emotion that the static, wooden faces of Anderson’s show ever did.
Just like the creepy and uncanny figures of The Polar Express, the characters in Thunderbirds Are Goare utterly lifeless behind the eyes. Then there’s the complete lack of effort that went into the lip syncing. It says something about this modern re-imagining that it still feels old: it just doesn’t fit with the new, exciting vibe that the show is trying to give off. If you’re going to update a classic you have to do something more than just stop everyone smoking incessantly and putting Grandma in a fucking tracksuit.
Add to that the fact that it’s fucked about with the classic designs of the crafts themselves and it’s an almost total aesthetic travesty. Thunderbird 2 was a flawless design with great curves: now it’s just clunky and boxy. No amount of remote control and funky new features can make it seem as cool as it used to. It’s just not the same.
However, the spirit of the series is still alive and kicking. It’s all about a family that are just trying to help people in dire situations. From the outset you are assaulted by the sheer amount of action on screen. This is television for a modern audience. Whilst Gerry Anderson took his time to let things play out slowly, Thunderbirds Are Gois relentless. There is never a let up or a real chance to get to know the characters. If I didn’t know betters, I’d say Thunderbirds Are Go was the fucking Michael Bay remake.
I’m not bemoaning the increase in action and drama but I have to question it when it comes at the expense of well-crafted plots and characters. None of the three or so missions (most of them of are so dull and short I’m not sure they should count) are particularly fleshed out or well-executed. It’s all about ensuring that as much happens on screen as possible: Gerry Anderson meets the fucking ADD-generation.
Something that also goes some way to explain the uninspiring script. It is full to bursting with exposition and perfunctory and incredibly awkward. I’m not saying that the original series was an Oscar-worthy mastering of the English language but we’ve reached a time when children’s shows are more sophisticated. Even with a target audience of 6-11 year olds, Thunderbirds Are Goseems patronising and too childish most of the time. I’m sure even 10 year old me would be cringing.
Although, who really gives a shit about my opinion? The makers have clearly stated that isn’t a show made for the pre-existing fans. It’s a show that was made to introduce a new generation to this world. I can’t deny that kids will probably love it. It’s bright, colourful and action packed: really action packed. I mean there is never a moment when something isn’t happening. There is a huge amount of potential here and, despite my initial misgivings with the CGI, I have to admit the animation does allow for a lot more detail.
I mean, imagine how hard it would have been to show John floating through zero gravity in the puppet world. There is so much detail in the show that it’s difficult not to be impressed to some degree. We also have something of a triumph in the newish character Kayo: the updated version of Tin-Tin. Finally, we have a female character that the younger me could get behind. Feminists rejoice: there is a woman at the wheel of a Thunderbird craft.
I can’t say I’ll be watching Thunderbirds Are Goon a regular basis but I don’t think that really matters to anyone. This is a decent re-issue of an old classic that, even if it pisses off the loyal traditionalists, will appeal to the children it was created for. Of course there were a few teething problems but, once you’ve explained the essentials to your audience, things can surely only get better.