As a long-time fan of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, I was always going to approach this with mixed feelings. Excitement, certainly, but also trepidation. Because if anybody destroys my Alex, I swear to god I'll...
It comes as a relief that director Geoffrey Sax (the interminable 'White Noise') manages his material quite well. He lays the necessary groundwork (and there is a LOT of it, being the first book) in a way that is exciting instead of tedious and perfunctory, and he sticks enough quality action sequences in to drive the plot along, even though there is the occasional sense that we're stuck in a gyroscope after eating four hotdogs and milkshake, the camera moves are so erratic and vertiginous.
The script is reasonable enough, though Anthony Horowitz is a better author than he is a screenwriter. On the upside, it adds a bit of a personal touch, and calms down the rabidity that could result when fans realise just how much the story has been butchered. Whole scenes have been taken out or transformed, and even some of the character names are different (villian Herod Sayle becomes Darrius Sayle, and is American instead of Lebanese). Still, Alex's (Alex Pettyfer) adolescent spy stuff is believable and heartfelt, just what we'd expect from a boy who discovers his uncle is a spy and has been killed (a brilliant opening sequence starring Ewan McGregor), not to mention that he himself has been secretly trained all his life to take over the job.
The film falls flat, though, when it tries to be a little too cool for its own good. It comes off as a little too contemprary and disposable - hardly a work that will endure for years to come - rather something that'll keep fourteen year old boys entertained for a few hours. The use of music by the Gorillaz and Kaiser Chiefs may make the audience exclaim 'hey! I know that song!' but it feels too commercial and brings down the quite serious and dark tone of the story. The cast of Britain's finest (Bill Nighy, Robbie Coltrane, Andy Serkis, et al) lift it up where it falters and their delivery of the snappy, clever lines is a delight.
A good film, but not quite satisfying, though it'll keep its target audience captivated for a little while. And it's a shame because while what's there is a great night out at the movies, it could have been so much more.