Friday, 11 July 2014

Movie Review Revisited: Thomas & The Magic Railroad (2000)

First off apologies for the lack of updates, I was going to review the UK's S15 DVD but decided against it due to the fact that my opinions on the infamous series hasn't changed since writing my views on it in 2012 and that the stupid Sharon Miller hate is getting old and unpleasant. Yes she is not a great writer but she doesn't deserve harsh judgement like her going to hell, that's just ignorant. She's not a bad person from what I've heard.

I've decided to update my views on the Thomas specials from Thomas and the Magic Railroad - Blue Mountain Mystery that I've done from 2012. My opinions may or may not've been changed during the past two years since those reviews though. But here are my 'Movie Review Revisited' and the first instalment is the infamous first, but first here's this warning: 



Written and Directed by
Britt Allcroft

Produced by
Britt Allcroft
Phil Ferhle

Alec Baldwin
Peter Fonda
Mara Wilson 

Hummie Mann

Distributed by
Gullane Entertainment/Destination Films

July 14th, 2000 (UK)
July 26th, 2000 (US)
December 14th 2000 (AUS)

It was the year 2000, the world had entered the 21st century, the city of Sydney, Australia was hosting the Olympic games and Thomas the Tank Engine was given his first theatrical movie and in the end…was a total dud.

Diesel 10 returns to the Island of Sodor to find a lost steam engine. Meanwhile Mr. Conductor, from Shining Time Station was looking after the Fat Controller's railway while away on holiday and had lost his gold dust. Burnett Stone felt down that Lady, the lost engine, never got to work again and had lost his wife, childhood friend Tasha. Meanwhile Thomas helps Mr. Conductor, Lily and Lady during the film with his lack of screen time. 

If there are people or parents giving me the 'It's a kids movie' card that is no excuse for how terrible this film or any other terrible children's film there is. That is like saying 'Batman and Robin' is a movie for adults despite the harsh criticism it had gotten since its release and to this day it is still hated by fans, critics and most of the general audience. If a movie is bad it's going to get some criticism its how the way things improve over the years. 

Now on with the movie: 

There are many plot holes in this movie that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. First off is the 'magic portal' between Muffle Mountain and the Island of Sodor which is known as the Magic Railroad and that the power of gold dust gives the railroad its energy. But if Lady is not there providing the power the magic linking to both worlds will vanish and yet Sodor is all fine and dandy with the engines talking and doing their work like normal while the magic was fading away, possibly when Lily arrived at Shining Time. 

Plus there are unexplained parts of the movie, particularly around the third act. How did Lady and Thomas get to the Magic Railroad, despite that the entrance was on a cliff and how did Thomas, while racing down Muffle Mountain went under another magic portal under a hill? Even to this day for 14 years I have no idea why that was made. But this just another unexplained plot hole that we have to deal with. I the 1999 script, the draft version of the movie or better known as the 'director's cut' script, the Magic Railroad has various portals, which is a railway system, and I would love to see that. But it's still a stupid idea to put that in the final version without any form of explanation whatsoever.

The whole magic concept in the movie was ridiculous and this is from Britt Allcroft, the woman who many fans have praised over the years for adapting the Rev.W.Awdry's stories onto the television screen 30 years ago and usually in the fan base you hear many criticising HIT Entertainment for the flaws they've done since 2004 and yet Britt Allcroft had made mistakes herself with Series 5 being over the top with constant crashes, which resulted to a psychologist in the UK stating that the show showing constant crashes will lead kids to be scared to go on a train, and this movie. I respect the woman and I understand that she thinks the show feels like magic but if you're going to make a movie about a vicar's fictional engine that has been well known since 1946 at least show some respect to his work by making Sodor a fictional island in the British isles rather then a universal world were magic is the key for its existence. 

At least the characterisation of the Awdry characters (Thomas, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy and Toby, Annie, Clarabel, Bertie and Harold) haven't been tampered with as of course Britt Allcroft understands the characters well as producer. But the new characters such as Lady, Diesel 10, Splatter and Dodge were bland, lacking personality and have no reason why to be on Sodor barring Lady for the latter as she provides the magic between the two worlds. Starting off with Lady, she is bland and has no personality at all in the movie. All we know from the movie is that she's magical and that is it. Plus her choice of basis is nowhere near a real engine yes Thomas is a fictional show but it always have a tradition to this day that they base the character from a real life steam locomotive. 

Diesel 10 has improved much better in S17 and looking back at the movie, he was a typical Hollywood villain. An evil engine wanting to destroy Lady and dominate the Sodor steam engines….for absolutely no reason! Maybe power? But why has he returned to the island? We never seen him in the past episodes prior the movie. In the director's cut though he came to help the engines, why did they change that after the test screening audience I don't know. There is one movie to me that showcases that you don't need a villain to make a kids movie and that is Hayao Miyazaki's 'My Neighbour Totoro' a simple film about two little girls befriending a creature named Totoro that they only see at a young age. Now if Totoro's plot is used for a Thomas film I would like to see that. It was pointless of D10 though to be taken away in disgrace when he's was coming back to the series, though I will say him the 17th season they've treated him more as a three dimensional character showing us that he doesn't want to be left out (watch 'The Missing Christmas Decorations') 

Splatter and Dodge are your typical Hollywood goofy comic-relief sidekicks that work for the bad guy. In the final print that we know today they were shown out of nowhere with no explanation or reason why they're in the movie. However in the directors cut they were working in the scrap yards, though I wonder they could've used 'Arry and Bert and introduce them in the movie, it's been rumoured over the years that their basis was used for 'Arry and Bert for the fifth season. Though when the models pictures were released at the time, when they were selling the ERTL models, their models have the detailing of grim around them to make them look more realistic in my eyes but the way they were in the movie makes them look bland. Their personality seems OK but they weren't important to the movie and they hardly done anything, in the final print whereas in the DC they actually do something after George told them to ram the magic buffers themselves leading them to be derailed.

Note: These people were suppose to be the voice actors for the characters.

Another problem with the film is the voice actors. Thomas the Tank Engine is a British brand and yet the movie has actors who are, no offence, American and Canadians, which led to British movie critics to tag 'Americanisation' of Thomas the Tank Engine. There is only one VA who was from England and that is Britt Allcroft, which I have to say she did fine despite the lack of dialogue, she only had four lines throughout the movie. Originally she never had a speaking role and she only responds telepathically to Thomas, which explains her whistling in the final print when Burnett Stone was reading a book at his cottage and when Lily came to see him.

For Thomas, John Bellis, a fireman and part time taxi driver in the Isle of Man was given the role due to his voice as Britt Allcroft thinks that how she thinks of Thomas' voice. This was suppose to be big break but unfortunately was suffered through the test audiences in L.A, California because he sounds 'too old'. Yet Thomas the Tank Engine has been narrated by many people who were in 40's - 60's in the UK and US such as Ringo Starr, Michael Angelis, George Carlin and Alec Baldwin at the time and was replaced by Canadian voice Eddie Glenn giving Thomas a more youthful voice.

The same can be said about Michael Angelis, the long term UK narrator of the show from 1991 - 2012, was to voice James and Percy. This would've been his debut towards the American audience until 2004 but he too was casted aside by the L.A test audience with the 'sound too old' card. A shame to hear that as he had such great enthusiasm then. He was replaced by Linda Ballantyne for Percy and Susan Roman for James, I notice that one person, who shall remain nameless, was critical about James being voiced by a woman. The reason why there are female voice actors who voice male character is because there voices have a different pitch then men thus in the end create a more convincing voice for the male character. There are many talented female VA's like Nancy Cartwright who voiced Bart Simpson in The Simpsons, Veronica Taylor who've voiced Ash Ketchum from Pokemon from 1998 - 2006, where they've replaced them with cheaper voice actors and E.G Daily who've voiced Tommy Pickles in Rugrats and its spin off All Grown Up. 

I have no personal hatred for the VA's that were chosen in the final cut of the film but I think the people behind the film would think of hiring some British voice actors rather then having someone impersonating a British accent. There is one VA that I ended up liking which is Neil Crone, despite that he gave Diesel 10 an American accent and Splatter and Dodge goofy sidekick voices and Gordon, well he did alright for him but I would've considered a British person doing the voice. 

Another big problem with the movie is that the humans have more screen time then the engines, as Doug Walker, Nostalgia Critic says, 'You know what's seriously lacking in Thomas the Tank Engine? Yes Thomas the Tank Engine! He's barely in this!' and I agree, though the actors are good but I would have to agree on Peter Fonda's over depressing acting and I know that many kids films manage to have sad scenes but it's a bit depressing. Alec Baldwin was decent though and same can go to Mara Wilson. But if it's a Thomas movie you're making, with him having more poster space: 

The theatrical poster, the one on the top is the teaser poster

You are bound to know he was going to have a bigger role. In the original script yes the engines were going to have more screen time then the humans, but with so many cuts and revisions made, it seriously lacked that. In the end it's a terrible movie and it's one of those movies that you see on lists of movies that are adapted from a TV show that shouldn't have been made. It is definitely one of the worst films I've seen and it's easily 'Shining Time Station' the movie disguised as a Thomas film. How the way I think the movie would've gone is that they should take out the Shining Time Station stuff and replace with some of it as some from Sodor. You can still have D10 helping out the engines, you can have Burnett Stone being on Sodor up in the mountains of say Culdee Fell, you don't need the Mountain Railway Engines though and instead of a magic engine you can have an old engine, maybe as old as Edward. I know there are fans of the movie and that is fine but in my opinion this the worst Thomas movie I've seen and I'm not lying but 'Misty Island Rescue' is more realistic compare to this, even if that one wasn't good as well. There are some good things that've came out from the movie and that was the models, the Magic Railroad background I have to admit was beautiful, though I prefer this one by Oleg Savytski, and the music. I liked it as a kid to see the models on the big screen for the first time and it still amazing to look at and I liked the soundtrack that was made in the movie too. But it's final draft was written and edited terribly that to me is an abomination towards the history of Thomas and it was a box office flop. 

There is a lot of information about the director's cut of this movie and the movie in general by SiF that have been compiled by various members since 2007, click here and you'll be surprised by the many things that went behind the scenes.


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