Having in loved the books series as a child and having been underwhelmed by the 2006 Alex Rider film Stormbreaker featuring Alex Pettyfer, I approached this new series with caution. But I was so pleasantly surprised by this series.
The series is only eight episodes long and recently premiered on Amazon Prime (all eight episodes were released on the 4th June). Whilst it features Alex Rider’s origin story, it is primarily based on the second book of the series – Point Blanc.
The first thing I love about this series is the casting – whoever was the casting director, I applaud them. The teenagers actually look and feel like teenagers, those working for the government are the right amount of sinister and caring and the villains are downright creepy. Otto Farrant makes the perfect Alex Rider, despite being slightly older than the 14 year old Alex from the books. He’s so emotive and shows off Alex Rider’s best skills – his moral compass and determination to do the right thing.
Another wonderful thing about this series is the friendship between Alex and Tom. It’s such a funny, genuine friendship between two teenage boys. From what I remember Tom didn’t feature much in the books or in the previous film so I’m so glad this friendship got highlighted. The two of them are so funny together and really help emphasise the fact Alex is just a normal teenage boy. Brenock O’Connor who plays Tom is perfect for the role and he reminds me of Ned from the recent Spider-Man films – the nerdy and lovable sidekick! I love all his pop culture references and the way he just really cares about his friends. The anchovy pizza scene is both hilarious and incredibly precious. Having a younger brother means I know pretty well what the average teenage boy is like and these two capture it perfectly.
Tom isn’t the only character I love – I think Jack (Ronke Adekoluejo) is great, you can just see how much she cares about Alex and her own bits of detective work come from that place of wanting to make sure he’s safe. The bits of mundane daily life between Jack and Alex never fail to make to smile – especially when they conspire to make a takeaway look like a home cooked dish. The combination of Mrs Jones (Vicky McClure) and Alan Blunt (StepheN Dillane) is the perfect mix of caring and ruthless. I love seeing Mrs Jones moral dilemma about using a child as a spy – makes the whole thing more realistic.
Our villains Dr Greif (Haluk Bilginer), Eva Stellenbosh (Ana Ularu) and Yassen Gregorovitch (Thomas Levin) are so creepy and you discover more about them the more you want. They’re classically evil without being cliche and I certainly wouldn’t want to mess with any of those guys.
Another thing I really love about this series is how British it is. As Alex Rider cycles to and from school, the streets just look like they could be mine! So many big blockbuster films or series made by American companies are supposedly set in the UK but just don’t look or feel like it. This series feels authentically British – from the school uniform (pretty much identical to the one I used to have) to the awkward teenage parties and the cringe nature of a school dance. Even their house feels genuine – it looks like one of friends’ houses rather than some sort of impressive set. Although my dad is convinced Alex Rider lives on the same street as the family from Outnumbered.
I also love the way you really get to see the characters grow and develop – I guess this is the advantage of a TV series vs a film. Whilst the series is only eight episodes, it’s not until episode four that Alex properly starts his mission at Point Blanc. This means we really get see Alex’s relationships and learn about him as a person before he becomes a spy. This allows us to understand why Alex makes the decisions that he does – from deciding to go to Point Blanc in the first to all the decisions he makes following that.
I also love all the twists and turns that take place during the series – I won’t share any spoilers but I will say the series managed to stay away from being predictable and boring. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s been so long since I read the books I had absolutely no clue what happens beyond Ian Rider’s death. This meant I was going in completely blind and had no clue what to expect plot wise. The series didn’t disappoint!
Now whilst this is by no means a major point, I must also add that in my opinion the series had a banging playlist!
This series is much less comic and childish that both the original books and the Stormbreaker film – you’ll see no special gadgets here,secret entrances via a photo booth or comedic fights with kitchen utensils. This, along with the choice to focus on the second book Point Blanc is what ages the series up – makes it more appropriate for a wider audience, including older teens and adults.
This series is a slightly darker and grittier take on the series, with the hopes of winning over both children and adults alike. Since most of Alex Rider’s original readers have long since grown up, Sony are hoping to pitch this series at slightly older audience and win them back. In my opinion, it does all that more! It’s a great first introduction to Alex Rider for those with no prior experience and it also entices back previous readers and makes them think about rereading all the books!