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The ‘Alex Rider’ Movie Franchise That Could Have Been
“You’re Never Too Young To Die!”
Back in 2006, I saw the movie, ‘Stormbreaker’, at the cinema. This was supposed to be the first of a series of action-packed spy movies based on the ‘Alex Rider’ books by Anthony Horowitz. Alex Rider was this character created by Anthony Horowitz to appeal to the young ‘James Bond’ wannabes.
Before seeing the movie at the cinema, I went and purchased the movie edition of the original ‘Stormbreaker’ novel by Anthony Horowitz. I read the book to get an idea of what to expect when I saw the movie at the cinema. For the most part, I enjoyed the book and looked forward to seeing the film.
After seeing ‘Stormbreaker’ at the cinema, I enjoyed the film too and went on to read the other five remaining books that were available at the time in 2006. This included ‘Point Blanc’, ‘Skeleton Key’, ‘Eagle Strike’, ‘Scorpia’ and ‘Ark Angel’. I was hoping the rest of the ‘Alex Rider’ series would be films.
Unfortunately, ‘Stormbreaker’ as a film wasn’t the blockbuster box office success it could’ve been. It received an underwhelming reception by critics and from what I’ve gathered it wasn’t marketed very well in the USA. This is a shame as I really liked the ‘Alex Rider’ books having enjoyed reading them.
Alex Rider has become one of the most popular characters in children’s literature. He now currently stars in eleven books of his own series, with a twelfth one about to come out at the time of this review. There have also been supplementary books as well as short stories featuring young Alex Rider.
The ‘Alex Rider’ books have a unique tone compared to other children’s books. Anthony Horowitz went for writing a fourteen year old boy on dangerous spy adventures in a grown-up atmosphere. Previous attempts with kids in ‘James Bond’ environments have been more child-friendly with jokes.
Such examples include the ‘Spy Kids’ films and the ‘Agent Cody Banks’ films. The ‘Alex Rider’ series of books was the first time I came across a young fourteen year old boy doing ‘James Bond’ adventures that were actually real and more serious. The only difference was there was less ‘sex stuff’ involved.
‘Stormbreaker’ was indeed intended to be the first film based on the first of the ‘Alex Rider’ book series to spawn a series of films based on all the other books. I’m saddened this didn’t happen as I was looking forward to seeing ‘Point Blanc’, which Anthony Horowitz was about to adapt into a film.
But that stopped when ‘Stormbreaker’ didn’t receive the big success it could’ve had. This is ironic considering Anthony Horowitz wrote the movie’s screenplay himself based on the book, despite having requests from producers to make changes during the adaptation process from book to script.
It’s also sad since I consider the film to be rather well-made by director Geoffrey Sax, who incidentally directed the ‘Doctor Who’ TV movie with Paul McGann in 1996. But like I said, there were changes made to the story in the film adaptation process that caused it to be underwhelming.
Lately, the ‘Alex Rider’ book series is considered to be adapted into a brand-new TV series. From what I’ve gathered, it’s going to be a complete reboot of the ‘Alex Rider’ series not following on from ‘Stormbreaker’ and is instead starting with ‘Point Blanc’. I would personally begin with the first book.
So what changes were made in the adaptation process from the book to film and how come ‘Stormbreaker’ didn’t gain the big success it could’ve have. Do I agree with the opinion from critics that the film lacked ‘originality and believability’? I don’t think so, as I did find it to be pretty exciting.
The film focuses on Alex Rider who loses his uncle Ian Rider during a mysterious car accident. But as the film progresses, Alex discovers that his uncle wasn’t a bank manager, but a spy working for MI6. He’s soon recruited by M16 to help finish off a mission his uncle had started involving Stormbreaker.
Stormbreaker is a super computer created by Darrius Sayle who seems to want to distribute copies of it to schools for educational purposes. But as Alex finds out, the computer contains a lethal virus that is about to kill billions of people. Can Alex save the day in stopping the Stormbreaker computer?
Despite the film not doing so well at the box office, ‘Stormbreaker’ features a star-studied cast that should’ve made the first entry in the ‘Alex Rider’ film series an appealing eye-catcher. Unfortunately a lot of the cast members in the film had reduced roles and didn’t get enough screen time deserved.
Alex Pettyfer stars as the main hero, Alex Rider. Now despite the criticisms laid against the film, I do find Alex Pettyfer to be a good actor. He seems a fitting choice to play Alex Rider, who’s confident and has gained extensive training within martial arts, mountain climbing and languages to become a spy.
Sometimes there are issues with regards to the delivery of some of his lines and not being able to project enough emotion in his performance as he should. But I found Alex Pettyfer’s performance as Alex Rider pretty decent and I was hoping this film’s starring role would make him a huge success.
Mickey Rourke stars as Darrius Sayle, the film’s villain. Now interestingly, Sayle in the book was originally called Herod not Darrius and he had a Lebanese nationality instead of American in the film. This was changed by Anthony Horowitz to suit the actor, Mickey Rourke, who’d play him in the film.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Darrius Sayle is the intimidating villain he could’ve been due to Mickey Rourke’s performance. Mickey Rourke would later go on to play a villain in ‘Iron Man 2’ and I don’t think his role in that film was strong either. I recall Herod Sayle seemed intimidating in the book than the film.
Alicia Silverstone stars as Jack Starbright, the housekeeper at the Riders’ home. You may know Alicia Silverstone for playing Batgirl in the widely hated film ‘Batman & Robin’. She’s done lots of other films too like ‘Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed’. I found Alicia to be pretty good as Jack Starbright.
It’s clear that Jack dots on Alex, especially after Ian Rider gets killed. However, I do question in terms of the age differences between Jack and Alex in the film. I mean, I’m sure Alicia Silverstone is older than Alex Pettyfer, but sometimes they do across as being the same age when seeing them together.
Bill Nighy stars as Alan Blunt, the head of MI6 who recruits Alex Rider to work for them and finish off his uncle’s assignment with the Stormbreaker. And I’m just going to say it; I think Bill Nighy’s a good choice to play Alan Blunt. I say this since he’s exactly playing him as he was in the ‘Alex Rider’ books.
I first came across Bill Nighy when he played Sam Gamgee in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ radio series. He would go on to star in films like ‘Valkyrie’ with Tom Cruise; the ‘Doctor Who’ episode called ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ and he’d play Sgt. Wilson in the ‘Dad’s Army’ 2016 film. He’s good as ‘frosty’ Blunt.
Sophie Okonedo stars as Mrs. Jones, Alan Blunt’s right-hand woman in MI6. Sophie previously played Alison in the ‘Doctor Who’ webcast, ‘Scream of the Shalka’ with Richard E. Grant. She would later go on to play Liz 10 in the two ‘Doctor Who’ TV episodes, ‘The Beast Below’ and ‘The Pandorica Opens’.
This was the first time I came across Sophie Okonedo in ‘Stormbreaker’. She’s very good as Mrs. Jones in this. Mrs. Jones does sometimes come across as cold and strictly professional when doing her job at M16. But she does have this element of compassion in her and she is Alan Blunt’s conscience.
Damian Lewis stars as Yassen Gregorovich, the Russian assassin who killed Alex Rider’s uncle at the beginning of the film. I liked Damian Lewis’ performance as Gregorovich. He balances both the sinister quality and sometimes unusual compassion in the movie when it connects him to Alex Rider.
I did like that moment when Gregorovich shoots a fork-lift truck carrier driver with a gun, since that was both shocking and true to what was in the book, although they showed no blood and it was bizarre when he didn’t look where he was shooting. His last scene with Alex is also true to the book.
Missi Pyle stars as Nadia Vole, Darrius Sayle’s right-hand woman in the movie. I’d seen Missi Pyle before in the Tim Burton film, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ where she played Violet Beauregarde’s mother. And boy, did I find her to be over-the-top in her performance as Nadia Vole.
Now to be fair, Nadia Vole is supposed to be German and Missi Pyle does deliver a fair German accent in her performance. But most of the time, I found her sounding rather silly in suspecting Alex Rider not being Kevin Blake. This all leads to a pointless fight scene between her and Jack Starbright.
Andy Serkis stars as Mr. Grin, Darrius Sayle’s right-hand man and butler in the movie. Andy Serkis is well-known for playing Gollum in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movies as well as Snoke in the ‘Star Wars’ sequels. Unfortunately, I did find his appearance as Mr. Grin to be wasted and very underwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s true to the spirit of the book. Mr. Grin is a former circus performer who had his tongue cut out due to a knife-throwing act. But most of the time, I didn’t find Mr. Grin doing much apart from throw knives at a captive Alex and being controlled by Alex to take him to London.
Stephen Fry stars as Smithers, the creator of Alex Rider’s toy-like gadgets similar to Q in the ‘James Bond’ movies. Stephen Fry is a big name as he played Jeeves in the ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ series with Hugh Laurie and has starred in two ‘Hobbit’ movies directed by Peter Jackson. And he’s wasted here.
Now he does serve an important role in giving Alex Rider his gadgets which include the zit cream and an Nintendo. But Stephen Fry only has one scene with Alex Pettyfer that’s pretty fleeting. Also, Smithers seems meaner compared to being friendlier in the books and also seems less fat in the film. 😀
Sarah Bolger stars as Sabina Pleasure, Alex Rider’s love interest in the film. Now I have to address something in comparing the book and film. Sabina Pleasure’s first appearance in the ‘Alex Rider’ book series wasn’t in ‘Stormbreaker’. It was actually in ‘Skeleton Key’, the third novel of that series.
But the filmmakers decided to bring Sabina forward into the first movie to give Alex Rider a love interest to fall for. Now I like Sarah Bolger’s performance as Sabina, but she’s only limited to a few scenes at the film’s beginning and end. Not much of a romance story between Alex and Sabina, is it?
Ashley Walters stars as Wolf, the leader of the K Unit of the SAS in the Brecon Beacons in Wales when Alex Rider goes to train with them under the code name Cub. I would later see Ashley Walter guest star in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ featuring Matt Smith.
Wolf starts off by being hostile to Alex when he joins the K Unit, unable to comprehend why he’s training alongside them during the exercises. Eventually Alex gains Wolf and the K Unit’s respect when he manages to help them escape from a locked building after they fail an exercise at the camp.
Ewan McGregor stars as Ian Rider, Alex Rider’s uncle in the movie. Ewan McGregor is also a big name, very well-known for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels. Unfortunately, like Stephen Fry, he’s wasted in this movie, since he only has a few scenes before getting killed in his car.
This is a bit confusing as why would you have a big name actor like Ewan McGregor in a small role where he plays the uncle of our main hero before he dies. The uncle doesn’t feature in the book at all, so why have a scene with him in the film apart from making a very action-packed opening scene?
Robbie Coltrane stars as the Prime Minister in the movie who is honoured to push the big red button to start the Stormbreaker computers across the world. I’ve seen Robbie Coltrane in ‘Danny the Champion of the World’. He’s also so well-known for playing Hagrid in the ‘Harry Potter’ film series.
And goodness me, I couldn’t take him seriously as the Prime Minister here. I mean, he’s certainly no Tony Blair, who would’ve been the Prime Minister at the time this film was made. He even uses the familiar ‘education, education, education’ phrase from Tony Blair. But he’s mainly there for comic relief.
Oh and he’s also there to emphasise that the Prime Minister used to be in school with Darrius Sayle and bullied him, calling him ‘Darrius Smell’. In fact, the reason for Darrius Sayle’s revenge plan is because he wants to get back at people like the Prime Minister who bullied him. Reasonable, but it sounds lame.
For the most part, the movie’s action sequences are pretty good. The filmmakers spent a lot of money in terms of the action sequences with planes; speed boats; car chases; etc. They even had Donnie Yen who was a stunt coordinator and fight arranger in many of the fight scenes Alex Rider has.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘From Page to Screen’; ‘Stunts’; ‘The Horse Chase’; ‘Creating Sayle’s Tower’; ‘Casting Alex’; ‘Donnie Yen’; ‘Featurette Overview’ and the film’s teaser trailer. There’s also the filmmaker’s commentary with director Geoffrey Sax; producer Marc Samuelson and screenplay writer/‘Alex Rider’ author Anthony Horowitz.
‘Stormbreaker’ as a movie…is pretty decent. I enjoyed seeing it when it was on at the cinema back in 2006 and hoped it would become a big success. But after seeing the film again and reading other people’s thoughts on it, I can see why the film wasn’t the huge blockbuster success it could’ve been.
The film has problems no doubt in terms of the adaptation process from book to film. I think it would’ve been beneficial had the film been two hours long instead of 89 minutes in duration. This is so to allow more of the book to be processed into a movie for us as an audience to enjoy and appreciate.
I’m lucky that I’ve been able to read the book first before seeing the film and appreciate it for what it is rather than what it isn’t. I’m saddened ‘Stormbreaker’ didn’t spawn off the series of ‘Alex Rider’ movies it could’ve had, but I’m glad I saw it at the cinema and consider it to be a decent gem overall.
‘Stormbreaker’ rating – 7/10
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