Michael Bay Isn't Making ThunderCats, But Someone Needs To
Last week, a particularly wild rumor surfaced that Six Underground, Netflix's big budget action movie directed by Michael Bay and starring Ryan Reynolds, was in fact, secretly a ThunderCats movie. This news came out of left field, but it was exciting for fans of one of the 1980s' most popular cartoon series. Sadly (or thankfully, depending on your opinion on Michael Bay taking on this material), it was not to be. Ryan Reynolds and writer Rhett Reese have shot down the rumor, confirming that Six Underground is not secretly a big-budget ThunderCats feature film. So we aren't getting a Netflix ThunderCats movie from the man behind the Transformers franchise and starring Deadpool himself. That's fine, and Six Underground sounds interesting in its own right. Yet, although this crazy rumor turned out to be false, it raised an interesting question: Why isn't someone making a ThunderCats movie?
This is one of those popular '80s properties that for some reason remains untapped for cinematic adaptation. It's honestly quite baffling, and if Michael Bay isn't making a ThunderCats movie, someone needs to. The reasons why ThunderCats deserves a live-action movie and how one could work are myriad, but here are just a few of them.
The broad strokes of the ThunderCats story tell an epic tale that is both familiar and fresh. Much like Krypton, Thundera is a dying world the ThunderCats must flee. They are pursued by evil mutants who destroy all that's left of their species but this small group. The ThunderCats take refuge on Third Earth, where they are strangers in a strange land. There they find themselves faced with an even greater, more ancient evil in Mumm-Ra. In order to survive and free Third Earth from Mumm-Ra, Lion-O, the childlike leader of the ThunderCats, must learn responsibility and how to be a leader. These kind of story elements are familiar to audiences and have been proven to work in other properties, so they can work here. And those are just the broad strokes. With so many episodes to mine, there is enough material for a whole franchise, cherry-picking the best elements and creating entirely new stories. Cat people that are the last of their kind, with a child leader facing off with a magical mummy many years into the future of the Earth, that's a story that deserves the big screen treatment.
The ThunderCats Are A Fun Superhero Team
Part of why ThunderCats has endured so long is because of the characters. The ThunderCats are a fun group of goofy characters, each with their own personalities and skillsets. Much like the Avengers or any other beloved team, each ThunderCat brings something to the table. Panthro's strength, Tyrgra's brains, Cheetara's speed and Wilykat's tricks all contribute to a fun dynamic both in battle and out. Lion-O, the leader of the ThunderCats, is headstrong and immature, partially thanks to his Shazam-like nature. His mind is that of a child, but his body that of an adult thanks to a suspended animation snafu. Guardians of the Galaxy has proved that audiences will buy in to a concept if they like the characters. Despite their goofy natures and weird looks, the ThunderCats would work in a movie because they are each unique, entertaining characters that work together as a team. Except Snarf, ditch him.
We Don't Get Enough Sci-Fi Fantasy Movies
Generally speaking, we get science fiction movies like Alien and Ready Player One, or we get fantasy movies like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword or The Hobbit. Rarely do those two genres truly meld in a single film. The obvious exception is Star Wars, which has perfected the space fantasy with the advanced technology of science fiction in things like starships and the magical elements of fantasy like the Force. John Carter bombed spectacularly, but that doesn't mean that space fantasies other than Star Wars can't work. Similar to Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats features both magic and technology. Despite being in the same genre, ThunderCats also has a very different story than Star Wars, so a ThunderCats movie would give audiences something that feels fresh and new in a sub-genre that has often been underutilized.
Technology Can Do It Justice
The obvious challenge with bringing anything as fantastical as ThunderCats to life is making sure that the technology can do justice in live-action to what the cartoons do in animated form. After all, this is a sci-fi fantasy about cat aliens; making that work on the big screen hinges on them looking good. Fortunately, CGI has reached a place where almost anything can be made to look convincing if enough money is thrown at it. Movies like The Jungle Book, Avatar and the modern Planet of the Apes franchise have made it clear that the Thunderians could look awesome. But they wouldn't even necessarily have to be done with performance capture. Promo images from the Hellboy reboot show that practical makeup could still work great for the ThunderCats themselves, with CGI being used for characters like Snarf and maybe Mumm-Ra. If done right, ThunderCats could be a true visual spectacle.
Nostalgia and Brand Recognition
It is no secret that nostalgia is in right now. Studios with franchise goals in mind are looking to capitalize on that by adapting and updating properties with a nostalgic sentiment and a recognizable name. Film series like Transformers, G.I. Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have done this to varying success, and that should make ThunderCats an easy call to get a blockbuster movie. It seems like a huge oversight that it hasn't happened yet with money being left on the table. This isn't some short-lived, obscure series with little name recognition. The original ThunderCats series ran for multiple seasons with over 100 episodes. It also had a short remake series in 2011 and a new reboot series is coming to Cartoon Network next year. ThunderCats are part of the culture, and even if you haven't seen it, you've heard of it. Name recognition, a built-in fanbase and the nostalgia factor, ThunderCats has all of that. The iron is warming up and now is the time to strike and give this nostalgic property the big screen treatment it deserves.
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Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.
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