“Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker” is meant to kick off a teen Bondian franchise. I doubt we’ll ever see a sequel to this “Spy Kids”-like adventure, not due to a lack of production values, but more than the whole enterprise is lacking the critical entertainment value that this genre needs to succeed.
After his hotshot, superspy uncle (Ewan McGregor in a very brief cameo) is killed while undercover, 14 year-old Alex Rider (newcomer Alex Pettyfer) is curious about who took his uncle’s life. Brought under the wing of MI-6 (led by Sophie Okonedo and the always welcome Bill Nighy), Alex is groomed to be the next generation of secret agent. His first mission is to infiltrate the compound of billionaire Darius Sayle (Mickey Rourke), who plans to launch a cutting edge computer system designed to murder millions of schoolchildren across the United Kingdom. Using gadgets and freshly-sharpened wits, Alex is the last hope to stop this madman before tragedy strikes.
“Stormbreaker” is the first feature film adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s best selling teen adventure series. You can think of it as “Spy Kids” meets “James Bond Jr.,” but lacking the energy of the former and the charisma of the latter. It’s a cold fish of a spy film, absent the necessary punch and kick that normally accompanies tales of super kids like this.
Not being too familiar with the Alex Rider saga before viewing the film, it would appear that Horowitz either isn’t a very clever scenarist or he has dumbed down his prose considerably for the big screen treatment (he also wrote the script) of his work. “Stormbreaker” offers nothing new to anyone who has seen a spy film, or even the moderate charms of something similar, such as “Agent Cody Banks.” Odd, though, is the overall tone, which seems preoccupied with keeping merriment out. “Stormbreaker” isn’t a sour film, but it doesn’t have a pulse; limping through extended action beats with cookie-cutter authority and often horrific direction.
Longtime BBC director Geoffrey Sax certainly can capture a glossy sheen to the proceedings, but give the man a sequence that involves combat, and it all falls apart. The film oddly relies on a plethora of martial arts sequences, and if you can imagine pasty British actors and Alicia Silverstone (as Alex’s nanny) zipping around the frame pulling off highly choreographed moves, you should be able to see why “Stormbreaker” is a veritable catalog of bad ideas. Because action is like cooties to Sax, he lazily displays the mayhem through rapid-fire cutting, backed by four-year-old techno hits. Typically, this type of cinema is defined by the quality of adventure; however, “Stormbreaker” will make you beg for the next scene of dialogue.
In the lead role, Pettyfer doesn’t possess a sliver of charm in what should be a very enthusiastic and authoritative role. Frankly, he looks bored, and hardly matches up with the interesting British cast, or the kooky American actors. Pettyfer was obviously cast for his looks rather than skill, and that alone sums up the experience of watching “Stormbreaker” quite well.Rating: D+