Just when you thought the Bond genre had finally choked on its own self-awareness – assisted knowingly by Austin Powers, Johnny English and so forth – enter Geoffrey Sax and his film adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’ Alex Rider character. I’m not sure Stormbreaker does enough by itself to save the day, but it lays a solid foundation for the inevitable sequels to build on, so we may not have heard the last of Alex Rider just yet.
Rider is a mature-looking (shades of “I say, George! You’re remarkably well developed for a fourteen year-old!) but in truth somewhat dull and simpering teenager and so has no interest in Honey Rider, Allotta Fagyna and their ilk (Alicia Silverstone who, ten years ago, might have aspired to play this role, makes do as a big-sisterish au pair), but does quite quickly transform from sulky schoolboy ingenue (avec “issues”) to lean mean butt-kicking machine (still avec “issues”), no sooner has evergreen comedy buzzard, Bill Nighy, arrived on the scene to flap eyebrows and tell him how. Perhaps in homage to Roger Moore, eyebrow flapping passes for comic (and/or dramatic) expression for a number of the lead characters in this film.
It’s all pretty routine stuff, pretty well executed on the whole, with nice (but not overdone) use of CGI from time to time. By and large it zings along and importantly never takes itself too seriously: most of the support characters get plenty of comic opportunities (Nighy and Mickey Rourke milking theirs for all they’re worth), but Alex Pettyfer as Rider himself gets none – there’s none of the cheeky wisecracking hero here, which a lost opportunity to establish a natural successor to Bond.
A couple of irritants: no doubt for the American market, the word “heck” is used liberally in place other expletives, which just sounded silly, but more to the point hypocritical given that the characters in question were happy to punch, kick, knife and machine-gun each other without a second thought, but all pruriently refrained from using the word “hell”.
Lastly, there are a couple of unnecessary extra characters, and the final exchange between arch (but not particularly well established) villain Yassen Gregorovich and hero Rider defies all credible explanation, save as a means of wrapping up the film and laying the groundwork for the first sequel.
Interesting first instalment.