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Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker
Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job
Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker
Alex Pettyfer Stars in "Stormbreaker".
OPENING WEEKEND: $25,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $72,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

March 24th, 2006: Orphaned following his parents’ death in a plane crash, fourteen-year-old Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) lives in London with his banker uncle, Ian Rider (Ewan McGregor). When Ian is mysteriously killed, Alex takes it upon himself to look into the tragedy. Shockingly, he discovers that his uncle led a double life as a secret agent for MI6. Impressed with his novice detective skills, Alan Blunt (Bill Nighy), the cold, calculating head of MI6 Special Operations, decides to recruit the teenager as a spy. Alex was always strongly encouraged by his uncle to indulge in extreme sports like martial arts and scuba diving. Additionally, he gained invaluable knowledge of several foreign languages while traveling extensively with him on business. As a result, he is a perfect candidate for a young secret agent. His first mission is to investigate the devious megalomaniac Darrius Sayle (Mickey Rourke), who has ties to several dangerous and hostile nations. Sayle’s generous, but rather suspicious plan to donate his revolutionary new computer system, Stormbreaker, to every school in England, may be concealing some criminal agenda. Alex will infiltrate Sayle’s company by impersonating a programming wizard and will pick up the investigation where his uncle left off.

What to Expect: Based on the first Alex Rider book in a series of six, Stormbreaker may mark the beginning of a brand new film franchise. The author of the widely popular books, Anthony Horowitz, has also adapted the screenplay for the film and has been supervising the entire project as one of the producers. In addition to writing novels, Horowitz has worked quite extensively on television scripts, although primarily in Britain. Geoffrey Sax, the director of Stormbreaker, comes in with a similar British television background, although he is responsible for last year’s critically panned White Noise. Needless to say, since Stormbreaker is destined for an international release it will be the biggest project for either of the two men.

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Chosen from amongst 500 boys for the lead role of Alex Rider, Alex Pettyfer’s good fortune came after Horowitz caught him on (you guessed it) television. Upon seeing the teenager in his sole film role in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, the author was convinced that he was perfect for the job. Reportedly, this will be the most demanding role that any child actor has ever had to endure, as it will require constant physical commitment and proficiency in activities like mountain climbing, scuba diving, and martial arts. Unsurprisingly, the boy has been overwhelmed by the immense responsibility that comes with the position, but if he performs up to par and the first movie becomes successful, he is set for life. Perhaps the best casting of all, however, is Mickey Rourke as Alex Rider’s nemesis in the film. The intensely brooding actor and total natural in front of the camera nearly disappeared from Hollywood when he pursued a professional boxing career. Over the past few years he has reemerged in films like last year’s captivating and successful experiment, Sin City. Rourke was unrecognizable under the pounds of make-up, but completely stole the spotlight as the philosophical meathead Marv. His return to the cinema will be further solidified with Stormbreaker as well as the many other future releases that he has lined up including, Killshot, Sin City 2, and The Night Job. He should make an outstanding villain.

Since this may ultimately become a series, it might be interesting to look at some of the recurring characters. Bill Nighy (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Underworld: Evolution, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) will play Alex’s devoted and detached MI6 boss, Alan Blunt. Sophie Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things, Hotel Rwanda, Aeon Flux) will play his assistant, Tulip Jones, who has a particularly soft spot for Alex. Alicia Silverstone will play Jack Starbright, Alex’s housekeeper, best friend, and legal guardian following his uncle’s death. Stephen Fry (Gosford Park, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, V for Vendetta) gets to have some fun as Mr. Smithers, MI6’s resident gadget expert. Sarah Bolger (In America) will play Alex’s girlfriend, Sabina Pleasure. Finally, Damian Lewis (Dreamcatcher, An Unfinished Life) will play Yassen Gregorovich, a lethal assassin for a covert organization, who may have ties to Alex’s deceased family members.

To me, something feels decidedly wrong with this film and, potentially, the whole series. For starters, I am turned off by yet another attempt by the producers to follow the recently trendy formula of adapting children’s book series to the big screen (Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings – although that’s not strictly just for children). It’s a surefire way to create a following that will generate sequels and ultimately make everyone a lot of profit, but it’s bound to fail eventually, perhaps now. The entire Alex Rider franchise most closely resembles the Harry Potter series, but when you look at the numbers, the popularity of Horowitz’s books is almost negligible when compared to J.K. Rowling’s immensely admired novels. While the Alex Rider books have sold a solid 8 million copies worldwide, Harry Potter book sales have surpassed an astounding 300 million. Some may argue that the upcoming Stormbreaker could boost the sales significantly and become another phenomenon, but I feel like something is missing from this premise and will keep it from translating well to the big screen. The Alex Rider series appears to have all the necessary, larger than life adventures, but I fear that it might focus excessively on implausible action without properly developing the characters. It might lack the human and spiritual core found in those successful fantasies. This feels too much like a calculated mixture of dependable formulas; a watered-down, equal parts blend of James Bond and Harry Potter. Kids should have a good time, nevertheless, as Stormbreaker will capture that inner desire to become a secret agent, but it might not make the impact that the filmmakers expect. Since Alex Rider has been compared to a junior James Bond, I wonder if perhaps kids wouldn’t actually have more fun just watching the earlier, PG-rated Bond films. I know I certainly did.

In Conclusion: The budget for Stormbreaker is approximately one-third of the budget that the first installment in the Harry Potter series had. That does not seem too impressive for a film that will largely depend on action, gadgets, stunts, and special effects. In my opinion, the series lacks the spirit and originality to ultimately garner the worldwide attention and recognition that the producers are aiming for. It may end up feeling less like Harry Potter or James Bond and more like Agent Cody Banks. However, the film does have a dependable and irresistible storyline and features a strong cast, especially with Mickey Rourke, Stephen Fry, and Andy Serkis (Golem from The Lord of the Rings), who represent some of the best character actors. Younger audience members should get enjoyment out of this feature, but it may be tedious to the parents and will probably fail to generate amazing box-office numbers.

Similar Titles: Spy Kids, Agent Cody Banks, Spider-Man
October 13th, 2006 (limited)

The Weinstein Company LLC

Geoffrey Sax

Ewan McGregor, Alex Pettyfer, Mickey Rourke, Alicia Silverstone, Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, Damian Lewis, Sophie Okonedo, Robbie Coltrane, Stephen Fry, Sarah Bolger, Jimmy Carr, Missi Pyle, Ashley Walters

Total: 229 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Kids & Family

Click here to view site

Rated PG for sequences of action violence and some peril.

93 min





Stormbreaker at RottenTomatoes.com

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