After more than a year of legal battles, Thundercats: The Movie has at long last been cleared for release by the Motion Picture Association of America. Producer Aston Phillips, who had been prepared to release the movie in Europe, is clearly relieved. "We've come through some dark times. While we were forced to cut some scenes, the integrity of the movie is intact," explained Phillips at the MPAA press conference. "Overall, I'm pleased with the outcome." The movie's 'R' rating is well-deserved, even if the sex scenes have been toned down. Over the course of the film, Lion-o discovers several erotic uses of the Eye of Thundera; when the press asked the producer if those scenes were appropriate, he responded angrily, "Is this the first time in the history of film that a crystal has been used in such a way by a lion man?! Come on!"
While some sex scenes have been removed, the violence in the film remains as shocking as ever. Early in the movie, Snarf is grotesquely butchered in a rocket board "accident." While the majority of Thundercats fans seem pleased that Snarf will make such a quick exit, studio executives were not at all happy. "They wanted him in there as comic relief," Phillips explains with a sneer. With growing heat, Phillips continues, saying "If they really followed Thundercats, as I did, they would realize that Snarf is the symbol of the slacker, soft, whiny, complaining generation that is bringing this nation down." In a surprisingly good impression, Phillips mimics Snarf, "'Oh, Third Earth's too hot, snarf. Why doesn't the Thundertank have AC, snarf snarf. All I do is bitch and moan, snarf.'" Phillips went on to claim that the most heroic quality of the Thundercats in the cartoon was "their ability to tolerate Snarf. If I had been there, Snarf's life would have been ended. Painfully."
Less controversial are the changes made to Tigra and Lion-o in the transition to the big screen. The alterations in Tigra's character had more to do with David Carradine than the script. "Carradine was just stoned all the time," explained director Jay Tudor. "Said he needed it to get his 'zen'." Unlike Tigra, Lion-o's changes were scripted. "I always liked how you could hear Lion-o's thoughts in the cartoon. I really wanted that in the movie version," Tudor told us. One thing the director did not like about the thoughts was that the audience only heard them in an emergency. "That doesn't show us the real Lion-o," Tudor said. "Who is Lion-o? What does Lion-o want out of life? Only by hearing all of his thoughts can you know the real Lion-o." From such comments, you would expect Lion-o's thoughts to be deep, philosophical musings on life. Instead, we get such fare as, "Man, I shouldn't have eaten that third Thundertaco" and "By Jaga, Cheetarah really has a nice _ _ _!"
In contrast to most of the characters, Panthro changes very little. He is the Yoda in the movie, dispensing wisdom in his panther-like way. In one of the scenes that has been cut (see the press release), Tigra promises Panthro that he will try to make him happy. Panthro responds that "Trying isn't doing," leading to one of the most disturbing scenes in the history of cinema. I am quite frankly overjoyed that the scene will never appear on screen. In another moment of wisdom, Panthro sets the Thundertank on self-destruct, using it as a diversion to rescue Cheetarah from a mutant army. When Lion-o complains that they will lose the Thundertank, Panthro responds, "We can always replace the Thundertank, we can never replace a life." Meanwhile, the Thundertank detonates, slaughtering hundreds of mutants.
Throughout the years, the Thundercats have served as a beacon of light in this dark time, acting as role models in a world with precious few. One can only hope that the movie will succeed in bringing the Thundercats to millions who had not known them before, thereby brightening their listless lives.
Bring it on