By: Emma Lundsmith
MED231 Critical Review and Bibliography
Runtime: 98 minutes
Cast and Crew
Sonny: Damon Gameau
Ben: Stephen Curry
Lloyd: Ryan Johnson
Sam: Callan Mulvey
Ronnie: Sam Worthington
Tiny: Roy Billing
Chloe: Saskia Burmeister
Molly: Rachel Gordon
Mr. Koytis: George Karpiniaris
Director: Darren Ashton
Producer: Jodi Matterson
Executive Producers: Al Clark, Andrena Finlay
Production Company: Wild Eddie Films
Scriptwriter: Darren Ashton, Shaun Angus Hall
Cinematographer: Geoffrey Hall
Production Designer: Karen Harborow
Costume Designer: Ariane Weiss
Editor: Martin Connor
Music: David Thrussell, Francois Tetaz
Sound Designer: Pete Smith, Peter Townsend, Wayney Pashley
Thunderstruck was released in Australian cinemas on the 20th of May 2004; it was then released on DVD on the 10th of November 2004.
Box Office Figures
Thunderstruck had a total gross of $906,916 with $358,890 in the opening week of screening.
- Megan Spencer – Triple J Film Reviews
“While it tries very hard to please, Thunderstruck misses the mark due to lack of said character development, a messy script and a frustrating, choppy style.”
- David Michod – In Film Magazine Reviews
“Soundtrack, trans-continent photography and editing are of a high standard. And it’s much to Ashton’s credit that his leads (Gameau, Curry, Johnson, Mulvey, Worthington) convince at both ages and blend so well together as musicians and long-standing mates. There’s not a weak link among them. Trans-continent photography and editing are of a high standard.”
- Evelyn Gough – Echo News – Movie Reviews
“Like I said, it's been a long time since I enjoyed an Aussie movie this much. It has more heart and raw energy than a lot of recent Hollywood productions. The young cast is fabulous and the soundtrack obviously rocks. And whatever you do, don't leave until all the credits have finished.”
- Clint Morris – Movie Hole - Reviews
“From the solid leads – especially, the always amusing Curry, and newcomer Damon Gameau - to the steadfast support cast – stand-out turns from the gorgeous Bojana Novakovic and intriguingly cute Saskia Burmeister– to an excellent score by Francois Tetaz, not to mention a fitting rock soundtrack – it’s got all the ingredients mixed in for a reasonably tasty cocktail of home-grown laughs and a credible dollop of mateship.”
- Philippa Hawker – The Age – Film Reviews
“The film remains a great simple idea on paper, a one-line movie pitch that doesn't come to life. The characters are never really explored, just stuck in one somewhat laboured comic situation after another, until rock'n'roll redemption comes - and whatever rock'n'roll spirit is being channelled in this film, it's a pretty mild-mannered one, more easy listening than high voltage.”
Clint Morris, who also reviewed Thunderstruck, conducted an interview with Darren Ashton and Damon Gameau. Although the interview is not expressed online in a question and answer format, Morris presents it in a manner that gives the overall idea of the interview. Unfortunately this was the only interview I could come across concerning the film Thunderstruck.
Information about Thunderstruck was somewhat hard to come across online. One of the main problems was that the films official website (www.thunderstruckthemovie.com) was down. More than likely this website would have contained links to interviews and reviews of the film. However, I researched this film using search engines such as google, yahoo and altavista, all three provided me with adequate information. Thunderstruck is not a deep movie, it is simply an entertaining film to watch and if you happen to be an AC/DC fan it’s even more entertaining; therefore there was not any analysis of the film and the reviews were all concise.
Part II – Critical Analysis
The film begins in an AC/DC concert in Sydney in 1991. We are introduced to five friends Sonny, Ben, Lloyd, Sam and Ronnie who are devoted AC/DC fans, who are in a band called The Jack whose music is inspired by AC/DC. After the concert the five boys attempt to sneak into the bands private after party but fail miserably and are thrown into the street. The five friends avoid a near death accident, because they are preoccupied with a poster of the late Bon Scott, when the taxi they were meant to be in has a freak accident just down the road from them. In the dark alleyway under the poster of Bon Scott they take it to be a sign that someone was looking down on them; so the five of them decide right to make a pact then and there that if one of them should die before the age of 40, that the other four friends will drive to Fremantle and spread their ashes next to Bon Scott’s grave.
We then travel to twelve years later, when The Jack has dissolved and all the members have gone their separate ways. Ronnie, now a successful man in the music industry is going through a nasty divorce with his wife. Ronnie decides to ring his old mate Sonny to catch up but can't get in touch with him so leaves a message; however later that day Ronnie is struck by lightening and killed. Sonny receives the news from is mate Sam that Ronnie has been killed, but doesn’t plan on attending the funeral until he receives the message from the late Ronnie. Sonny decides that they must keep their promise to their mate and make the trip to Fremantle. Sonny and Sam round up Ben and Lloyd in a manipulative but humorous manner, next they steal Ronnie’s ashes from his wife and begin the long journey from Sydney to Fremantle in Sonny’s fathers van. The boys run into many obstacles along the way to Fremantle, including having the ashes stolen. But in the end they make it to Fremantle, spread Ronnie’s ashes and put on a concert in honor of Ronnie.
Thunderstruck is a light-hearted, entertaining movie; it is not deep and does not have a profound message but does say that you should never break a promise to a mate, which I am a firm believer of. The plot of Thunderstruck is very straightforward, once the boys set off on their road trip you realize they are in for quite an entertaining journey before they arrive in Fremantle. During the trip between Sydney and Perth, the boy’s path crosses many interesting individuals including two fanatical AC/DC fans who steal Ronnie’s ashes, a very horny bridesmaid, and a very angry priest. Some of the events in the film were a little far fetched, but I don’t think the director was going for an incredibly realistic story just an entertaining, feel-good film. The characters in the film are all funny in their own way. I believe the director tried to bring together five personalities that were each quite different but complementary to one another, and I think he did an excellent job of that in this film. However, as quite a few of the critics said, character development was lacking and was replaced with quirky, humorous events. The only character that the audience becomes personal with is Sonny, and in the end the audience is left wondering what happens to Sonny after his journey to Perth. I always enjoy a happy ending, which this film definitely provides with its spontaneous concert in the cemetery and the spreading of Ronnie’s ashes. If you’re looking for a good laugh with some Australian culture then Thunderstruck is your film.
Thunderstruck is classified a comedy; however it can also be applied to the road movie genre because the plot is centered around the journey between Sydney and Perth and the majority of the film takes place on the road. Although the film is dealing with the serious matter of the death of a loved one, it takes a comical tone throughout the film. The boys are constantly getting themselves into sticky situations which always have a humorous element to them. Thunderstruck would also be classified a road movie because of the mise-en-scene of the highway. Sonny stole his father’s very typical Australian van to make the cross country adventure. As a side theme, which is common to the road film genre, is that this journey appears to be a journey to set Sonny free of his past and help him grow up. With many road movies, the character is running away from or escaping something. It appears that Sonny may have finally been able to let go of the past and grow up after the road trip to Perth, however, due to lack of character development the audience is left wondering. Thunderstruck is undeniably a comedy due to its humorous tone throughout the film as well as a road movie since the greater part of the film takes place on the road to Perth.
Critical Uptake of “Thunderstruck” at the Time of Release
The film received fairly mixed reviews; however, overall from the reviews I could find I think it was thought to be a decent film. The cast of Gameau, Worthington, Johnson, Mulvey and Curry was received well by the reviewers; but a frequent complaint was that the characters were not developed enough. The onscreen chemistry between the five actors was said to be very energetic and appealing to all ages. Many people were disappointed that there were not more references to AC/DC in the film, and felt that AC/DC was simply used as a thread to hold the film together. One can take this in two ways, for all the AC/DC fans, this is a great let down; however, it allows the film to appeal to a broader audience because it is not solely concerned with the band AC/DC. Many reviewers found the film very refreshing and amusing probably due to the light-hearted nature of the plot, which compared to other recent Aussie films, like Somersault or Lantana was probably a nice change. As I said before Thunderstruck has a simple plot, it wont leave you feeling inspired but it will leave you with a smile on your face.
Critical Uptake of Thunderstruck Now
Thunderstruck has only been out for a year to date, therefore there is little talk of it other than the original reviews of the film. Considering it was not a landmark in Australian cinema I do not think there will be much further written of Thunderstruck. The comedy used in Thunderstruck makes it more suitable for a younger audience and an Australian audience. I could not find any reviews of Thunderstruck from America, leading me to conclude that it was not very successful abroad. What Thunderstruck has going for it, is that it is funny and has definite Australian character which I think will make it stick around as film for a good while.
Darren Ashton and Awards
Although Thunderstruck was Ashton’s first feature film, Ashton has previously done two documentaries and a short fiction film. Ashton’s has first documentary-drama called The Greatest Game, The Greatest Shame won him the Gold Mobie award from ITVA. Ashton also won the silver medal from the New York Film Festival for CIG-Life Giving Gasses. In 1998 he wrote and directed his first short film The Extra, which won him the second prize at Tropfest in 1999. The Extra was also nominated for Best Short Fiction and Best Editing at the Australian Film Institute Awards. Thunderstruck was Darren Ashton’s first feature film as director and writer. Thunderstruck was nominated for best original music score (David Thrussell and Francois Tetaz) at the Australian Film Institute Awards in 2004.
The Position and Value of Australian Film
While Thunderstruck received decent reviews, the box office figures show that it was marginally successful. The 2004 totals of the Australian Box office (http://www.moviemarshal.com/boxaus2004.html ) have Thunderstruck coming in at number 130, making only $906,916, however this is an international ranking. In regards to other Australian films that were done in 2004, Thunderstruck was very cheerful, however it was not as successful as some of the other movies of 2004; due in part to the lack of depth to the plot. Nevertheless a humorous film, although maybe not memorable, is always entertaining to watch.
- http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/review/film/s1106911.htm , Megan Spencer of Triple J Film Reviews
- http://www.if.com.au/reviews/2004/05/12.html David Michod of In Film Magazine Reviews
- http://www.echonews.com/1021/movie_reviews.html Evelyn Gough of Echo News Movie Reviews
- http://www.moviehole.net/reviews/1167.html Clint Morris of Movie Hole film reviews
- http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/05/19/1084917651577.html?oneclick=true Philippa Hawker of The Age Film Reviews
- http://www.moviehole.net/news/3615.html Clint Morris of Movie Hole
- “2004 Australian Totals” http://www.moviemarshal.com/boxaus2004.html
- “Thunderstruck” http://www.afc.gov.au/filmsandawards/recentfilms/cannes04/feature_121.aspx
- “AFI Award Finalists, Feature Films” Metro Magazine. Fall 2004. http://www.teenja.com/p/articles/mi_m0PAM/is_142/ai_n6335916