‘Alex Rider’ starts well. To the uninitiated, the web series is based on the novel series of the same by Anthony Horowitz. Teenage Alex (Otto Farrant) is to deal with what life throws at him after the death of his uncle Ian Rider (Andrew Buchan) who Alex believes works for Royal and General Bank. Directors Andreas Prochaska and Christopher Smith ensure that this is not a rip off of Cody Banks but a completely next level spy genre series.
Alex is a teenager who lives with his rule-abiding uncle and Jack Starbright (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo) who is Alex’s caretaker in his uncle’s absence and stays with the Riders. One late evening, police arrive and break the bad news that Ian is killed in an accident as he was over the speed limit and not wearing a seatbelt. Alex refuses to believe the story and investigates the matter. He follows one of the agents and realises that his uncle never worked for a bank but was actually a spy. He is recruited/blackmailed into service by Alan Blunt (Stephen Dillane) into helping the Department of Special Operations, a subdivision of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
This is where the novel and the web series deviate. The novel series begins with the Stormbreaker while the web series begins with Point Blanc (the second of the series). The main aspect of Alex becoming a spy in the novel was his training. After his successful first mission, Alex introspects: “In the old days, spies had done what they had done because they loved their country, because they believed in what they were doing. But he had never been given a choice. Nowadays, spies weren’t employed. They were used.”
This is conspicuously missing in the series. This is where the makers have taken their liberty. The change in the script could be attributed to the Box Office dud Operation Stormbreaker (way back in 2006). The plot is simple – infiltrate, observe and report. Alex obviously has the support of Blunt and his handler Mrs Jones (Vicky McClure).
There are some wonderful performances by the entire team. Kudos to Ben Wheeler for the picturesque cinematography. None of the actors go overboard. They stick to what they led upon to. Otto Farrant, however, tries a little too hard and misses the small details that Alex Rider is famous for. This has the potential of becoming a mini James Bond. This is not ‘Spy Kids’. Neither is this ‘Spy In Disguise’. This is ‘Alex Rider’.
The major problem with this eight-episode outing is that it tries too much to please all and misses on concentrating on the better parts. Time is spent on showcasing Alex’s social life which could have been spent on showcasing Alex’s mentality. His psyche. After all, he is what it is all about.
The series ends with Alex, Jack and Tom walking, laughing and Tom’s T shirt quote sums it up – The Book Was Better.
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