Alex Rider is just like any other teenager, that is until the death of his uncle propels him into a hidden world of spies and covert missions. Assigned with the task of infiltrating the lair of mysterious billionaire Darius Sayle can he discover the truth behind the launch of the Stormbreaker computer system before Darius' malevolent plan comes to fruition?
Now that 007 has been given a gritty reboot in the dark but ultimately joyless Casino Royale who's left to save us in style from dastardly villains bent on world domination? Step forward Alex Rider, the teenage spy transferring from the pages of Anthony Horowitz's novels to the big screen in Stormbreaker. Audiences have been here before, with the glitzy Spy Kids trilogy and Agent Cody Banks but Stormbreaker is less reliant on CG FX opting for more traditional action thrills and it wouldn't be far off the mark to dub this debut outing for Rider James Bond Junior. In fact with a few tweaks to the script it could easily be transformed into a more adult adventure for Fleming's creation. But this is to the film's credit as it ticks most of the required boxes with high-speed pursuits, lifesaving gadgets, evil henchmen and enemy lairs worthy of Bond production designer Ken Adam.
As Rider Alex Pettyfer certainly holds his own as a youthful action hero, credibly engaging in SAS training, quad bike chases and all manner of acts that would probably earn any normal teenager an ASBO. Less convincing as an actor he'll probably appeal to younglings with his anti-authority attitude and boy band good looks and is wisely surrounded by a cast of top theatrical talent. Bill Nighy is on fine form as the acerbic head of MI6 ably supported by Sophie Okonedo as his prim second in command Mrs Jones and, in a scene that knowingly spoofs the boys with toys wish fulfilment of 007, Stephen Fry fills the Q role bestowing young Rider with his gadgets in Hamleys. As the evil Darius Mickey Rourke is, well Mickey Rourke, and in the great tradition of Bond villains helpfully reveals the minutiae of his master plan to our captured hero.
By its very nature Stormbreaker is formulaic but at a brisk 90 minutes doesn't outstay its welcome. It packs in a plot that makes good use of English locations with well staged energetic action scenes that will also entertain the grown ups whilst the motivations for Darius' plan and the school kids in peril dénouement places things firmly in the world of its target audience. On the evidence of this fun debut and with more books available for adaptation moviegoers may not have seen the last of Rider. Although whether or not this secret agent franchise can duplicate the success of Harry Potter remains to be seen.