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Stormbreaker is a 2006 spy film based on Anthony Horowitz's novel of the same name, the first novel in the Alex Rider series. It stars newcomer Alex Pettyfer as the teenage spy alongside actors Mickey Rourke and Ewan McGregor. In the United States, the film was promotionally named "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker."

Plot

Alex Rider (Alex Pettyfer) is a fourteen year-old orphan, who lives with his uncle Ian Rider (Ewan McGregor) and their housekeeper Jack Starbright (Alicia Silverstone). 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. Alex subsequently discovers that Ian Rider was in fact a spy working for MI6marker and that he was killed by famed assassin, Yassen Gregorovich (Damian Lewis).

He is then recruited by his uncle's former employers, Alan Blunt (Bill Nighy) and Mrs Jones (Sophie Okonedo) of the Special Operations Division of MI6, who explain to Alex that his uncle has been training him as a spy; Alex first refuses to co-operate but agrees when they threaten to prosecute Jack (now his guardian) for being an illegal immigrant. Alex is then sent to a gruelling SAS training exercise where his fellow trainees first look down on him because of his age, but he soon gains respect for his capabilities.

He sets off on his first mission, aided by gadgets from Smithers (Stephen Fry). Billionaire Darrius Sayle (Mickey Rourke) is donating a free high-powered computer system codenamed Stormbreaker to every school in the United Kingdommarker. MI6 are suspicious of his seemingly generous plans and send Alex, undercover as a competition winner, to investigate. There, he meets the man himself, Sayle and his two accomplices, Mr Grin (Andy Serkis) and Nadia Vole (Missi Pyle) 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, Londonmarker. She goes there and finds Alex's true identity. While she is there, she is disturbed by and consequently fights Jack. Despite being out-classed Jack wins with the help of a blowfish, leaving Nadia to flee from the scene. Still troubled by the events, 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 trying to escape from the facility he is captured and during a villianesque monologue Sayle explains his true reasons behind Stormbreaker - each system contains a deadly virus which will wipe out every single one of Britain'smarker schoolchildren. Sayle leaves Alex tied up and departs for the London Science Museummarker. Nadia then throws Alex into a water-tank to be killed by a giant Portuguese Man o' War and takes several photos of Alex struggling underwater. Alex escapes the beast by using the metal-disintegrating spot cream supplied by Smithers and the tank explodes from the water pressure. Nadia is caught by the blast of water and the jellyfish stings her to death. Alex escapes on a jeep and stows away on a helicopter piloted by Mr Grin. He shoots the sodium pentathol arrow (from the pen which Smithers also gave him) into Mr Grin's neck, and the obedience serum enables Alex to get Mr Grin to fly the helicopter to London. Alex parachutes out of it as they arrive above the museum. Just as the Prime Minister (Robbie Coltrane) is about to press the button which will activate the computers, Alex crashes through the roof of the museum and halts the procession. He obtains a rifle from the guards - his former SAS colleagues - and shoots the podium, destroying the button and also nearly hitting the Prime Minister in the process.

Sayle is furious and leaves, but Alex then realises that Sayle has a back-up plan, and with the help of school friend Sabina Pleasure (Sarah Bolger) he pursues Sayle through the streets of London. Fifty floors up on one of Sayle's skyscrapers, Alex reaches him and unplugs his backup plan. An angered Sayle chases him out onto the roof and pushes him off but Alex manages to hold onto the cable he had pulled out of the socket. Sayle is about to kill Alex but is momentarily distracted by Sabina's arrival resulting in her being also pushed off the building and left hanging onto the cable as well. Just as Sayle is about to kill them both, Yassen arrives in a helicopter and shoots Sayle (ironically in the same manner he killed Alex's father), claiming that he had become an embarrassment to Yassen's employers. Alex swings Sabina onto a balcony and is then pulled back up by Yassen who takes him to a helipad. After disembarking Alex tells Yassen that this doesn't change anything and that one day he will kill him, but Yassen replies that Alex should return to school and forget that everything to do with MI6 ever happened.

The film ends with Alex and Sabina at their school. After the events, Sabina was forced to sign the Official Secrets Act but Alex maintains to her he is not a spy. High up on a nearby building, a camera focuses on Alex, and the film ends.

Cast



Production

Author Anthony Horowitz, already an established and prolific screenwriter in British television, wrote the screenplay and worked very closely throughout the film's production with director Geoffrey Sax and producers Marc and Peter Samuelson. The Weinstein Company acquired the North American rights to the film, which was filmed in Summer 2005 with six weeks on the Isle of Manmarker and a further six weeks in Londonmarker. Some of the scenes of the school were filmed in Grey Coatmarker and Ballakermeen High school, Douglas, Isle of Man. The film had a budget of £25 million ($40 million).

In 2005, young actor Alex Pettyfer was cast as Alex Rider. He was picked out of five hundred hopefuls who auditioned for the role. Pettyfer was originally offered a role in the then-upcoming film Eragon but turned it down, noting that he preferred Stormbreaker because it would be filmed nearer home while Eragon would film in the Czech Republicmarker, and Pettyfer is afraid of flying.

In June 2006, the producers of the movie signed a deal with Nintendo that made the Nintendo DS a prominent feature in the film, much like the Power Glove in The Wizard. This is an upgrade from the Game Boy Color that Alex used in the novel version. In addition to the Nintendo marketing in the film, Alex's mobile phone is a Nokia 7710 and he uses a sodium pentathol (otherwise known as truth serum) pen to get to London, not a gun.

In August, 2006, the film was renamed to Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker for the United Statesmarker release. A new poster (shown right) and trailer were released along with the announcement. It was also revealed that the US premiere would take place on the Intrepid aircraft carriermarker at the Hudson River, New Yorkmarker.

The name of the principal villain also changed from Herod Sayle to Darrius Sayle, with his nationality switched from Lebanese (Egyptian in the US version of the novel) to Americanmarker. This was because Mickey Rourke was already in talks to take on the role, so Horowitz adapted the character to suit him. Throughout the film Mickey Rourke's dog can be seen. It can also be seen on the US film poster.

Reception and box office

Critical reaction to Stormbreaker was mostly mixed or average. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 33% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 63 reviews, with the consensus that the film was a "strictly children's fare, as it lacks originality, excitement, and believability".

BBC movie 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 "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 movie 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."

Worldwide, the film grossed $23,492,130 or £12,239,940, failing to remake the $40 million (£25 million) spent in production.

Reviews of Alex Pettyfer's performance were generally negative, several critics calling his performance 'bland', 'lacklustre' and many feeling he delivers his lines poorly. There were many complaints that he was cast simply because of his 'pretty boy' looks and his parent's rich, influential connections.

After the movie's poor box office performance, plans for a franchise seem to have been dropped.

Differences from book to film

In the opening of the book Alex wakes up at 3am to find the police telling him the news of Ian Rider's death and in the film it shows his uncle's death in a high-speed car chase.

Sabina Pleasure is in the film and not the book. In the book series she is introduced in the third book Skeleton Key. Sabina also doesn't go to Brookland School with Alex, they meet at Wimbledon.

In addition, the film includes an extra chase scene in which Sabina helps Alex get to Sayle's building, where he plans to set off the Stormbreaker computers himself. It also includes a dramatic fight scene which has Alex and Sabina hanging off the building, until Sabina is flung onto the nearby railing and Alex is saved by Yassen, who shoots Sayle. Where the film has this scene in plain view of the Metropolitan Police and passers by, in the book (when Alex is captured by Sayle, posing as a taxi driver after being debriefed by MI6) this scene is held in complete secret.

There are three name changes from the book; John Crawley had to have a name change to John Crawford, after the real MI6 didn't want the name Crawley used. Herod Sayle's name is changed to Darrius, and his nationality changed from Lebanesemarker to Americanmarker because Mickey Rourke was very likely to get the role and Anthony Horowitz made the changes to better suit Rourke. Alex's fake name is also changed from Felix Lester to Kevin Blake for unknown reasons.

In the scene that takes place at the car crusher garage (in the movie, at the beginning), Alex takes out multiple guards with a rope. In the book there is only one guard and Alex kicks him, knocking him out, then leaves. Also, in the movie, Alex escapes the car by ejecting the seat, whereas in the book he escapes through the smashed rear windscreen. Another change is that Alex follows a van full of his uncle's belongings to the disposal garage straight after Ian Rider's funeral, but in the book he gets the address from a book at school and finds it himself. The name of the car garage is also changed from JB Stryker and Sons Car Disposal Garage is renamed to Jeff Slater Car Disposal Garage.

In the book, Alan Blunt tells Alex that Jack's visa has only just expired and that unless Alex worked for MI6, Jack would be returning to America and Alex would be taken into care at a rather unpleasant place. In the film however, he says Jack's visa expired seven years previously and that they would prosecute her if Alex did not become a spy (He does not say Alex would be taken into care, but it is very likely that Alex would have).

The scene when Jack is attacked at Alex's house by Nadia Vole isn't in the book.

In the film, Alex has a Nintendo DS as a hand held gadget, but in the book, it is a Game Boy Color as this was the most powerful hand-held games console when the book was written.

In the book, Alex uses the smoke bomb cartridge, detonated by the Game Boy Color, to destroy the plane controlled by Mr Grin. In the movie, he uses the whole hand-held console (Nintendo DS) to escape Sayle's laboratory.

In the book, MI6 tell Alex that his uncle did not die in a car crash and that he was shot dead by Yassen, but in the film they don't tell him and he dosn't find out until Nadia tells him when he is tied up at Sayle's house.

In the book, when Sayle leaves for the London Museum, Alex is left alone until Nadia comes (having had a much more minor role than she does in the film) and says she is on Alex's side, but betrays him by pulling a lever that drops him through a trapdoor and into the tank with the Portuguese Man o' War. In the film Nadia is already present when Alex is tied up and dumps him in herself.

Alex uses a mind control pen to make Mr Grin fly to London in the film, whereas in the book he steals a gun from a guard to force him. In the book, Alex finds parachutes in the plane which he uses to land in the Science Museum, but in the film the parachute is disguised as a rucksack which Smithers gave him.

In the book, Mr Grin dies because the plane he was controlling crashed into a building site when Alex set off the smoke bomb. In the movie, he doesn't die at all. However, rumours say that he was either arrested or killed by Yassen off screen.

In the book, Sayle doesn't find out that Kevin Blake (or in the book, Felix Lester) was really Alex Rider until Alex is captured. In the movie, Nadia tells Sayle that Kevin is a spy after finding out from Jack. Sayle gives Nadia instructions to kill Alex in his room. Alex overhears this using the Nintendo DS bug finder game and this causes him to head to the Dozmary Mine.

When Alex is in the mine he swims through deep water before finding the lab with the deadly virus. In the film he crawls through a narrow space under large rock to find the lab. Also, he meets Yassen at the lab, whereas in the book they don't meet until the end when Yassen kills Sayle and saves Alex.

In the book, the four trainees that Alex works with at the SAS training ground are called Eagle, Fox, Wolf and Snake. In the film, Snake's name is changed to Bear.

In the book Alex earns respect from Wolf by pushing him off a plane in a parachuting exercise when his fear of heights kicks in and in the film he earns it by locking a guard house and sending it rolling down the hill into a lake.

In the book Alex hides inside a Sayle Enterprises van to see Yassen arrive from a submarine in the sea. In the film Yassen arrives by helicopter and Alex sees him from behind a wall.

In the film Alex can speak Japanese, French and German, but in the book series he doesn't speak Japanese, but Spanish. Also in the book series his speaking of Spanish is a large part of Skeleton Key, so this change may have to be revised later in the film series.

In the book, when Alex parachutes through the glass roof of the Science Museum during the Stormbreaker Launch, he already has a rifle, which he uses to shoot the Prime Minister in the hand. In the film, he is handed it by the soldiers he trained with earlier to shoot the button apart.

The line "Alex Rider, you're never too young to die", which is on the front cover of the book is said by Mrs Jones is the book. In the film it's Sayle who says it (although he doesn't say "Alex Rider" because at that time he didn't know that was his name).

References



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