We’ve had young James Bond, courtesy of Charlie Higson, and the Spy Kids films, so there’s nothing that groundbreaking about Alex Rider, the mini-me spy and key character in Anthony Horowitz’s string of highly successful novels. 16-year-old Alex Pettyfer steps into the Rider role, his private school accent and rent boy looks making him ideal as the juvenile spy.
Horowitz himself adapts his own novel. Which is a feat considering that he also writes the Power of Five series (known as The Gatekeepers in the US), has knocked out a Sherlock Holmes novel, a number of scripts for the long-running Sunday afternoon footwarmer Poirot, a whole raft of Midsomer Murders and he’s the creator and main writer on Foyle’s War. So has he spread himself a little thin here? No, but he’s working within a familiar genre territory and knows how to rattle off a 007 knock-off like the workhorse he is. So we get Ewan McGregor as the superspy Ian Rider, who dies early on, all the better to pass the mantle to young Alex, plus Mickey Rourke doing his deranged best as a dangerous raving criminal mastermind, Stephen Fry as the obligatory Q character fitting out Rider with gadgets and gizmos and Bill Nighy twitching elegantly throughout as Rider’s spy boss. In fact the cast is packed with goodness – Sophie Okonedo, Robbie Coltrane, there’s even a mini-me Bond girl called Sabina Pleasure (played by spunky Sarah Bolger). Nighy is the most fun and probably reason enough to detain any grown-ups who wander into the room while Stormbreaker is on. Young girls who have the word “dreamboat” in their daily vocabulary will probably lap it up, as will young boys with a thirst for fantasy adventure – they’re unlikely to be intimidated by Pettyfer’s acting. But will it spawn a franchise? Who knows – Horowitz has produced six Rider books to date, and with his phenomenal workrate there’s not going to be any shortage of source material.
© Steve Morrissey 2006