Is Alex Rider the “spy” version of Harry Potter?
Let’s see how Rider stacks up.
Both are based on a successful series of novels? Check.
Both are British? Check.
Both are orphaned boys living with uncle’s families? Check.
Both have a special destiny beyond that of normal boys? Check.
Both have cute teenage lead actors that 12-year-old girls will fawn over? Check.
Both have a well-conceived supporting cast of likable friends and hateable enemies to round out a wondrously fantastic cinematic world beloved by fans young and old? Ooo, so close!
I had such high hopes for Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker. There was so much going for it, and I was hoping that it was going to be another fun movie franchise just like the Potter series has become. Unfortunately, its execution was really very amateurish and the characters are laughable.
Alex Rider’s world is turned upside down when his jet-setting uncle (played by Ewan MacGregor) dies, leaving him alone with their American housekeeper (played by an oddly-out-of-place Alicia Silverstone). After the funeral, Alex learns that his uncle was actually a spy who’d been killed on an undercover mission and that all these years he’d been training Alex with martial arts and other skills in order to follow in his footsteps. Sounds like a promising premise for a movie, no?
What I haven’t yet mentioned is how this movie starts off straight-faced, but soon gets incredibly cartoonish–think Spy Kids rather than James Bond or Alias. Let’s start with how they squandered a supporting cast of some of today’s best British actors including MacGregor, Stephen Fry (as the Q equivalent), Robbie Coltrane, Damian Lewis, and Andy Serkis. Bill Nighy (who was awesome as octopus-faced Davy Jones in Pirates 2) plays Ewan MacGregor’s former boss as if he had some kind of permanent facial injury that has left his mouth in a strenuous frown. His features are so overly stiff and uptight that it’s amazing he can actually bend his joints. Sophie Okonedo (awesome as Don Cheadle’s strong wife in Hotel Rwanda) played Nighy’s assistant Mrs. Jones as an essentially emotionless stepford woman.
Now don’t get me started on the villains! I couldn’t even stand to look at Mickey Rourke as an evil computer tycoon, looking like a cross between James Brown and George Hamilton. He was overly-tan, puffy-faced, and wore the sunglasses and outfits of a tacky Vegas casino boss. His second-in-command was an unbearably artificial, butt-kicking Russian amazon who gave the stupidest bad-guy looks imaginable.
Alex’s assignment was to pose as (…wait for it …) a contest-winning computer nerd (“But I’m not a computer nerd,” he astutely comments) in order to infiltrate Mickey Rourke’s complex and stop his plan to unleash a chemical weapon upon unsuspecting kids through the computers he’s donating to their schools (Yes, he put a bright green bio-toxin in the computers—O, the humanity!). I cannot go on anymore discussing how Alex used his spy gadgets to escape Rourke’s monstrous jellyfish; or how Alicia Silverstone had an all out housewares-flinging battle with the aforementioned Russian amazon; or how Alex conveniently ran into his cute-girl schoolmate during a riding lesson in the middle of London so she could help him escape from a herd of mounted Queen’s guardsmen …
I just can’t stand how a relatively cool premise went so horribly wrong. Suffice it to say that unless I hear about how Alex Rider 2 is going to be a reinvention of the fledgling franchise with Christopher Nolan or JJ Abrams in the director’s chair, I will likely skip that one.
… Oh, and there was the way Alex parachuted into the ceremony where the Prime Minister, who was the classroom nemesis of (the American) Mickey Rourke, was going to unknowingly trigger the release of the aforementioned bio-toxin; then there was … (2 out of 5)