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Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker

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Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker
StormbreakerBritishPoster.jpg
This film is a stormbreaker all right.
Genre: Spy
Action
Directed By: Geoffrey Sax
Produced By: Marc Samuelson
Peter Samuelson
Steve Christian
Written By: Anthony Horowitz
Based On: Stormbreaker
by Anthony Horowitz
Starring: Sarah Bolger
Robbie Coltrane
Stephen Fry
Damian Lewis
Ewan McGregor
Bill Nighy
Sophie Okonedo
Alex Pettyfer
Missi Pyle
Andy Serkis
Alicia Silverstone
Ashley Walters
Mickey Rourke
Cinematography: Chris Seager
Distributed By: Entertainment Film Distributors (United Kingdom)
The Weinstein Company/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (United States)
Release Date: 21 July 2006
Runtime: 93 minutes
Country: United Kingdom
United States
Germany
Language: English
Budget: $40,000,000
Box Office: $24,000,000
Franchise: Alex Rider
Sequel: Point Blanc (cancelled)


Stormbreaker (titled Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker in the United States) is a 2006 action spy film directed by Geoffrey Sax. The screenplay by Anthony Horowitz is based on his 2000 novel Stormbreaker, the first novel in the Alex Rider series. The film stars Alex Pettyfer as Alex Rider, and also stars Mickey Rourke, Bill Nighy, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Silverstone, Sarah Bolger, Stephen Fry and Ewan McGregor. Stormbreaker was an international co-production between companies and financiers from the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany.

The film's plot follows a teenage boy who is recruited by MI6 after his uncle, a secret agent, is killed in action. He is sent on a mission in Cornwall to gather intelligence behind Stormbreaker, an advanced computer system being provided to schools across Britain, and its creator, billionaire Darrius Sayle.

Intended to be the first entry in a film franchise, Stormbreaker grossed between $20.7 and $23.9 million worldwide upon its theatrical release, failing to recoup its $40 million budget and making the film a box office bomb. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film was largely criticized for its lack of originality and believability. As a result of these factors, plans to produce further Alex Rider films were dropped.

Plot

Alex Rider is a 14-year-old schoolboy who lives with his uncle Ian and their housekeeper Jack Starbright. Ian is supposedly a bank manager and is, much to Alex's regret, often away from home. One day, Alex is told that his uncle has died in a car crash, but quickly discovers that his uncle was actually a spy working for MI6 and was murdered by an assassin named Yassen Gregorovich.

He is then recruited by his uncle's former employers, Alan Blunt and Mrs. Jones of the Special Operations Division of MI6, who explain to Alex that his uncle had been training him as a spy. Alex initially refuses to cooperate, but agrees when they threaten to not renew the visa and deport Jack as a result of her visa having run out seven years ago. Alex is then sent to a military training camp in the Brecon Beacons, the home of the Special Air Service. At first, his fellow trainees look down on him because of his age, but he soon gains their respect for his capabilities.

He sets off on his first mission, aided by gadgets from Smithers. Billionaire Darrius Sayle is donating free high-powered computer systems codenamed Stormbreaker to every school in the United Kingdom. MI6 is suspicious of his seemingly generous plans and sends Alex undercover as a competition winner to investigate. There, he meets Sayle himself and his two accomplices, Mr. Grin and Nadia Vole, and is shown the Stormbreaker computer in action. Later, while Alex is having dinner with Sayle, the suspicious Vole steals Alex's phone and tracks the SIM card to his house in Chelsea. She goes there and finds out Alex's true identity; while there, she is disturbed by and consequently fights Jack. Despite being outclassed, Jack wins with the help of a blowfish, causing Nadia to flee the scene. That night, Alex sneaks out of his bedroom window to observe a midnight delivery of mysterious containers to Sayle's lair.

The next day, Alex finds himself in trouble when his cover is blown. After attempting to escape from the facility, he is captured and Sayle explains his true reasons behind Stormbreaker – each system contains a modified strain of the smallpox virus which, upon activation in the Stormbreaker release, will kill all of the country's schoolchildren. Sayle leaves Alex tied up and departs for the London Science Museum. Nadia drops Alex into a water-tank to be killed by a giant Portuguese man o' war, but he escapes using the metal-disintegrating spot cream supplied by Smithers. Nadia is killed when she is hit by the jellyfish, rupturing the tank in the process. Alex then hitches a ride on a Mil Mi-8 helicopter piloted by Mr. Grin, using a sodium pentothal arrow to gain Mr. Grin's obedience. Alex parachutes out of the helicopter and lands just as the Prime Minister is about to press the button which will activate the computers. Alex uses a rifle to shoot the podium, which destroys the button and ruins Sayle's plan.

Furious, Sayle leaves to carry out his back-up plan, and Alex, with the help of school friend Sabina Pleasure, pursues Sayle through the streets of London. Fifty floors up on one of Sayle's skyscrapers, Alex reaches him and unplugs his backup transmitter. Sayle chases him out onto the roof and pushes both Alex & Sabina off the roof, leaving them hanging by a dislodged cable. Unexpectedly, Yassen arrives in a helicopter and shoots Sayle dead (in the same manner he killed Ian) before rescuing Alex. Yassen then tells Alex that Sayle had become an embarrassment to his employers and that Alex should forget about him, but Alex refuses, saying that the killing of his uncle Ian means they are still enemies.

Alex returns to school; he and Sabina are talking about what happened and he says that it will never happen again. The film ends with someone observing Alex from a distance. He notices it and realizes that it's not the end.

Bad Qualities

  1. The tone of the original book was changed too much; the book's original gritty and dark theme was made more light-hearted and slightly silly in the film for no good reason. This resulted in the film failing to appeal to teenagers, the audience who this film was trying to target, as well as kids.
  2. Much of the film's story and tropes rely too heavily on the James Bond formula, though this is forgivable considering that the point of the book was to enhance children's wish-fulfillment power fantasies of being a badass, James Bond-like secret agent.
  3. The inconsistent tone is reflected in the film's acting, ranging from some actors giving wooden and bland performances, to others giving overly hammy ones.
  4. Despite being generally very faithful to the book it's based on, several plot points from the book were changed for literally no reason at all, creating multiple plot holes and logic bombs.
  5. The plot point of MI6 blackmailing Alex into being an agent against his will after he'd just buried his uncle, the only family he had left, could be considered very mean-spirited by some. Though the book did have this problem as well.
  6. Donnie Yen's fight choreography, while decent in the junkyard fight scene, is made very hard to follow due to the film's poor editing. The later fight scene between Jack Starbright and Nadia Vole is simply terrible, with goofy choreography, pointlessly having a TV replicating their fight while playing cartoon sound effects and, as mentioned before, even worse editing.
  7. The editing isn't just bad in the fight scenes, it's bad throughout most of the film, making it hard to follow what's going on during most of the action scenes because of it.
  8. The film contains product placement, though this is somewhat forgivable considering that it's nowhere near as much as some other films, and that the book had more product placement.
  9. While the CGI effects are decent by 2006 standards in some scenes, they're terrible in others, particularly in the scenes where Alex is testing out the Stormbreaker computers themselves.
  10. Some may consider Sayle's motivations for wanting to kill all of the UK's children with the modified smallpox virus extremely petty. He's doing it simply because he was bullied by the UK's current prime minister for being a foreigner, which led him to hate all schoolchildren and deciding to get revenge on the prime minister by tricking him into pressing the button that would both activate the Stormbreakers and release the virus. This is again, however, a problem the book had as well.
  11. Geoffroy Sax's directing is awful, as he was likely the one who likely pushed for the film having its hammy and goofy moments, which were clumsily mixed with the dark and violent ones of Anthony Horowitz's original book.
  12. The film doesn't even try to be subtle about the fact that it's trying to cash in on the success of the Harry Potter films, as evidenced by Alex's line; "So what is this place, Hogwarts?"
  13. The US release of the film was given an awful Agent Cody Banks-esque marketing campaign by the infamous Harvey Weinstein, who renamed the film to Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker. The US trailer was also misleading, stating that Alex's mission was to find his uncle, which isn't true because Ian dies at the beginning of the film. This is very likely what led to the film's worldwide critical and commercial failure.

Good Qualities

  1. Some actors' performances are surprisingly good, particularly the ones from Damian Lewis as Yassen Gregorovich and Missi Pyle as Nadia Vole, who both give genuinely intimidating performances.
    • Bill Nighy and Sophie Okonedo's performances as Alan Blunt and Mrs. Jones were praised for their faithfulness to the original book's characters.
  2. As previously mentioned, the film is still very faithful to the book it's based on, thanks to its original author Anthony Horowitz writing the screenplay.
  3. Also as previously mentioned, Donnie Yen's fight choreography is still decent, even if he was pushed by the director to make it much goofier than what he would have liked to have done.
  4. The opening titles scene where the audience is given a long, panning, aerial shot of London is quite breathtaking. The rest of the cinematography is decent enough.
  5. The practical special effects are spectacular, especially the explosions.
  6. The production design is very appealing and well-done.
  7. As previously mentioned, some of the CGI effects are still decent for 2006 standards.
  8. Alan Parker's music score is surprisingly good.
  9. Alex Rider's gadgets given to him by Smithers are pretty cool, such as the modified Nintendo DS, the sodium pentothal fountain pen, the magnetic Yo-Yo, the parachute backpack and especially the metal-eating zit cream.
  10. Alex is a character the audience can very easily sympathize with. His uncle has just been murdered and he's being forced by MI6 against his will to finish the mission his uncle left off, as mean-spirited as that is.
  11. The bittersweet ending where Yassen, who assassinated Alex's uncle, saves him from falling to his death, and the short, heartfelt conversation they have on the helipad where Yassen drops Alex off and tells him that he thinks he shouldn't be a spy because of how young he his.
  12. Fans of the Alex Rider books may still get enjoyment out of this film.

Reception

The film received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has a score of 34% based on 67 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 out of 10. The critical consensus states "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker is strictly children's fare, as it lacks originality, excitement, and believability." The film also has a score of 42 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 20 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

BBC critic Neil Smith gave the film three out of five stars, but criticized the "unsubtle turns" from both Bill Nighy and Stephen Fry. The Hollywood Reporter branded the film as "a lame and disappointing affair", although likening it to both the Harry Potter and James Bond series, reviewer Ray Bennett said the film "lacks any kind of suspense" due to the script. He ended saying that Stormbreaker was unlikely to have a "license to kill at the box-office". Cinema Blend editor-in-chief Josh Tyler gave the film two and a half stars out of five, and said that "Most of the problems with Stormbreaker all boil down to believability." Boston.com's reporter Wesley Morris also gave Stormbreaker two stars out of five, and said that "Geoffrey Sax's filmmaking holds few surprises... but it's swift and competent, despite too many shots of cars on roads that bloat the running time".

Trivia

  • Anthony Horowitz had plans to adapt the second Alex Rider book, Point Blanc, into a film. He even went as far as to write the screenplay for it, but the film's critical and commercial failure forced him to cancel his plans.

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