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.