Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Operation Stormbreaker

I only discovered the "Alex Rider" teen spy novels by Anthony Horowitz a few months ago. I picked up the first three books, read them, and thought that they were quite entertaining. They're fast-paced, reasonably credible espionage adventures featuring an English teenager who is recruited by MI:6 after his superspy uncle dies on a mission. I look forward to reading the next few volumes.

Once I learned that the inaugural novel, Stormbreaker, had been adapted into a movie, I became interested in seeing it. But none of the local video stores had a copy for rent, nor for sale. Recently, Brandi signed us up for Netflix, and I was finally able to check it out.

It wasn't bad.

Scripted by series creator Horowitz, the film, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (a bit cumbersome, that) closely follows the plot of the novel (which, in turn, borrows heavily from Ian Fleming's Moonraker in structure), and even improves on it slightly, with a bigger, more dramatic climax. Newcomer Alex Pettyfer is a decent Alex, and most of the casting is quite solid. The pace is good, the fight scenes (choreographed by Hong Kong star Donnie Yen) are great, and the production values are quite high. The plot – as in the novel – is a bit by-the-numbers, but serviceable. Oh, it has a few problems, primarily in the handling of the villains, who are portrayed in a very campy manner in the film, which severely undercuts their menace. Mickey Rourke is decked out in some sort of Eddie Izzard ensemble, henchwoman Missi Pyle – a talented, chameleon-like character actress – is a Cold War cliche sporting an outrageous Natasha Fatale accent, and Andy Serkis' "Mr. Grin" sports creepy-looking make-up, but isn't even much of a presence, never mind a threat.

Still, I liked it enough to order a copy from Amazon ($5.99 new) for my spy film collection, and thought it was a decent foundation for what could have been a fun action franchise for teens. Unfortunately, the film's U.S. theatrical distribution – and subsequent home video release – were badly mishandled by the Weinstein Company, and the movie was a box office flop, effectively killing any potential series.

It's too bad. The plots in the subsequent novels are much stronger, and the Alex Rider character develops in an interesting way, and it would have been fun to see those developments play out over a series of films.

Oh well. I still recommend the movie to fans of spy flicks. It's not a classic, but it's entertaining enough, and better than, say, Agent Cody Banks 2.


Keith said...

I'm a big fan of the books. I've read 3 of them myself. I actually saw the movie before I ever read any of the books. The movie overall was pretty cool. I liked the actor cast as Alex. The villains in the movie were what really got me. I thought they were totally done wrong. It's a shame that the movie and its marketing was mishandled in such a way to kill a franchise. Maybe at some point a reboot will be done of the first book.

Charles Gramlich said...

I haven't read these, although I do enjoy a good YA book. I'll have to give these some consideration. The movie sounds like another Austin Powers type flick.

Christopher Mills said...

Charles, I certainly didn't intend to suggest that the film is a ridiculous spoof like the Austin Powers films; it's actually a pretty straight, Bond-like adventure, with a "teen" twist.

Yeah, the villains are a bit too campy, but they're not cartoons like Myer's Dr. Evil.

Anonymous said...

Ive read the books since i was eight and have loved them for years im now in the midst of my teens and i have a few problems with the film.

Let me start by saying the film was good however:

The villain didnt capture alex and take him to the tower which happened in the book

The whole idea of a backup system was just done to add suspense

Ok here are my ideas if they do a sequel:

It needs to be darker there is a lot more death in point blanc.

No new scenes just make the old scenes more powerfull and emotional.

Here is the age range you're fans who watch the film.(No including parents as they come with the kids!)

0-3 years 10%
4-7 years 5%
8-11 years 25%
12-15 years 50%
16+ years 10%

Point blanc should be a 12A film with more action added to keep the suspense on.

Point blanc needs to be released before 2011 otherwise noone will understand why the sequel is bing made to a film that came out more than 5 years ago.

I am currently hoping that they could finish the film and be in UK cinema`s by 12:12:09

That way i could see it for a birthday treat!