Before settling on rebooting the franchise with Casino Royale, for awhile there was talk that the next James Bond movie would pick up his story as a young lad. Had James Bond Jr. ever come to fruition, I imagine it would have been a lot like Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker.
We've seen spy movies featuring kids. The list of pre-teen espionage franchises is endless. Spy Kids, Agent Cody Banks, and probably somewhere in there a movie starring the Olsen Twins. The only thing that sets this one apart is that it's British and based on a series of popular kids books, thus ensuring a built in audience, at least in Great Britain.
The movie stars Alex Pettyfer as 14-year-old Alex Rider, nephew of super-secret agent Ian Rider. Alex doesn't know his uncle's a spy, but when Ian ends up full of bullets, MI6 calls him in as a replacement. Wait a minute, how can a high school freshman be a covert operative? It's easy when you're a genetic freak. Ok, no one in the movie ever says that he's unusually large for a kid, but in shots of Alex and his classmates, he towers over them like a sexy blonde version of Herman Munster. He's also really good at Karate, and uses it to beat the crap out of a group of garbage men in a scene that looks like it was choreographed by legendary martial artist Donnie Yen… which of course it was.
The most interesting thing about Operation Stormbreaker isn't it's content, but the number of quality names involved with it. Donnie Yen is just the tip of the iceberg. Ewan McGregor pops up in a small role as Alex's uncle, Bill Nighy steals scenes as his bizarre MI6 boss Alan Blunt, Mickey Rourke struts through the film like a rooster in heat as Alex's arch-enemy Darrius Sayle, and Alicia Silverstone shows up as Alex Rider's American housekeeper Jack. They're all great, and they do a lot to lift the movie beyond the been-there-done-that gadget-driven pace we've seen from others of this genre whenever they're on camera. Unfortunately most of those stars' parts are little more than cameos, leaving the film alone with only its script and young Alex Pettyfer.
Most of the problems with Stormbreaker all boil down to believability. I'm sure in book form it seems perfectly natural for a 14-year-old kid to dominate special forces basic training, but on screen it's just kind of silly. Of course this is fantasy, not reality, yet even fantasy requires some sort of real world logic or explanation to connect its wilder conceits together. Stormbreaker gives none. Alex is a super-agent because the story requires it, not because he's been given some special gadget, or been injected with super-molecules, or been specially trained as killing machine. He learned a little Japanese, read a couple of books on computers, took a few karate classes and now he's James Bond. If it's that easy, why are we all wasting time watching this movie? Sign up for Tae Bo and prepare to start your exciting career as the world's foremost secret agent. The CIA has a great dental plan.