Thunderbirds Are Go

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Thunderbirds Are Go Movie Poster Image
Campy '60s live animation adventure has some smoking.
  • G
  • 2004
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

This film is intended to entertain, not educate.

Positive Messages

While certainly a campy tale of espionage and space travel from the mid-1960s, this movie does show through example the importance of teamwork when faced with daunting challenges.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jeff Tracy is as much a caring father as he is the fearless leader of the Thunderbirds. When feeling overlooked and underappreciated by the team, young Alan Tracy proves his worth his heroic actions.

Violence & Scariness

Some cartoonish violence: A Rolls Royce is fitted with a machine gun that fires from the front of the vehicle. A helicopter is shot down, crashes into water, and explodes. Characters fire guns at each other. A spaceship crashes into an evacuated city and causes a fiery explosion.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Marionettes from the press corps smoke cigarettes. Alan Tracy and his father Jeff smoke cigars together after a mission. Characters drink champagne in a nightclub, but do not act intoxicated.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Thunderbirds are Go is the 1966 feature-length film version of the popular UK television series Thunderbirds, a live-action animation chronicling the adventures of the Tracy family, a group of superheroes, adventurers, and spies in marionette form. As a product of the mid-1960s, this story of space travel to Mars, sabotage, and near-disaster is quite campy, but also shows characters smoking cigarettes and cigars, and meeting for drinks at a nightclub. The violence -- some gunfire, and helicopter and spaceship crashes -- is cartoonish, but the fiery explosions could be a bit much for younger viewers. There are also scenes involving space monsters that could be scary for some. Other than this, Thunderbirds are Go is an entertaining product of its time.

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What's the story?

In THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO, Zero-X is going to be the first manned expedition to Mars, but when the ship is sabotaged in mid-air by an evil spy, the ship crashes and the crew barely escape in time. When a second mission is planned, the Thunderbirds, led by former astronaut Jeff Tracy -- with the help of Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward's spy gadgetry -- are there to provide security and insure that this time, the ship safely lands on Mars. While other sabotage attempts are thwarted, the ship faces new challenges while on the Martian terrain, and a harrowing escape to Earth leads to the ship headed towards a crash landing into a populated area. Once again, the Thunderbirds -- and especially young Alan Tracy, who often feels like he is never given the chance to prove his heroism -- must come to the rescue.

Is it any good?

Filmed in "supermarionation," this movie is a campy live animated marionette mid-'60s take on the James Bond and space travel movies of that era. The special effects certainly haven't aged well, but on its own terms, there's a timeless creativity to this movie that shows that imaginative stories with limited resources can be as enjoyable as modern sci-fi. Fans of the Austin Powers movies will notice strong similarities.

However, in spite of the action, Thunderbirds are Go is slow-paced at times. An extended dream sequence and a musical interlude with Cliff Richard and The Shadows go on longer than necessary, and, while humorous in a kitschy kind of way, feel like unnecessary padding to the central story. Still, for fans of live-action animation, this is an entertaining way to see how far we've come in almost 50 years.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the future looks. As a film made in the mid-1960s that is set in the late 21st Century, how is "futuristic technology" presented in Thunderbirds are Go? What do you think technology in 50 years will look like?

  • How is space travel shown, and how is this similar to and different from other movies and TV shows where space travel is a main focus of the story?

  • How is live animation like this created? If you tried something like this, how easy or difficult do you think it would be?

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