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Entertainment Alex Rider review - Our verdict of Amazon's new TV adaptation

15:10  26 may  2020
15:10  26 may  2020 Source:   digitalspy.com

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Alex Rider review : Amazon Prime Video’ s teen spy drama tries too hard to please everyone. In trying to make Anthony Horowitz' s bestseller at once family Sign up to get alerts on Netflix and on demand services and receive TV and entertainment email newsletters from our award-winning editorial team.

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a man and a woman looking at a laptop: This new adaptation, featuring Line of Duty and Game of Thrones stars, will release on Amazon in June... © Amazon Prime This new adaptation, featuring Line of Duty and Game of Thrones stars, will release on Amazon in June...

Alex Rider fans can release the breath they've been holding in for months – yes, 20 years after the first Alex Rider novel Stormbreaker was published, author Anthony Horowitz's bestselling teenage spy series finally gets a decent screen adaptation with a new eight-part TV show (launching in the UK on Amazon Prime).

Written by Guy Burt, who has worked on British dramas including The Borgias and The Bletchley Circle, and with Horowitz on board as executive producer, on the basis of the first two episodes it's a slick, fast-paced and enjoyably gritty adaptation of the second Alex Rider thriller, Point Blanc, that remains true to the source material while thankfully ditching some of the more dated (and dare we say, daft) aspects of the 2001 novel.

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Alex Rider TV series, London, United Kingdom. 1.8K likes. After the death of his uncle, the 14-year-old Alex Rider is forced by the Special Operations Everything you need to know about the new Amazon Prime television adaptation of the Anthony Horowitz Young Adult spy series.

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A few elements of the first book remain to set the scene and introduce Alex to those who haven't read the YA novels. The teen (Otto Farrant) – who is around 14 in the early novels but a bit older here (he goes to a party where there's booze!) – has been raised by his uncle Ian following the death of his parents.

a man and a woman looking at the camera: Alex Rider Otto Farrant © Amazon Prime Alex Rider Otto Farrant

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Alex thinks Ian is boring and works in a bank but when he dies in a car crash, the curious school boy investigates and discovers his uncle was actually a spy for a secret government offshoot of MI6 called The Department, run by Alan Blunt (Stephen Dillane).

Fortuitously, Ian had been covertly training Alex to be just like him – though up until this point Alex's skills had mainly been used to steal his friend Tom's (Game Of Thrones' Brenock O'Connor) confiscated phone from a locked teacher's drawer – so Blunt and his second-in-command Mrs Jones (Line of Duty's Vicky McClure) want to recruit him as they need someone to infiltrate a mysterious school in the French Alps called Point Blanc for a case that may be linked to Ian's murder.

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While the rather lame opening credits feel as if they have been borrowed from a Timothy Dalton-era Bond movie, when the action starts (and it starts right away, with a businessman plummeting down a lift shaft to his death) it feels more like Jason Bourne Junior, packed with meetings in abandoned buildings, shoot outs, double agents, and suspicious looking goons lurking on every darkened corner.

Yes, folks, even though it may be based on books that are often read by kids as young as nine, this Alex Rider is gritty stuff and it's not babyish at all. By the end of episode two, Alex, who has already dealt with the possibility of going into care and his housekeeper/friend Jack (Ronke Adekoluejo) being deported, finds himself kidnapped, bundled into a van and tortured for information. That never happened on Paw Patrol.

Otto Farrant et al. standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Alex Rider Otto Farrant © Amazon Prime Alex Rider Otto Farrant

The producers have clearly learnt a lesson from the previous Alex Rider adaptation – the 2006 movie Stormbreaker, starring Alex Pettyfer. Touted at the time as the first of an exciting new franchise, it was in reality a horrendous flop, in part because it was just so darned idiotic.

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(In just two examples of the movie's bonkers casting, Alicia Silverstone plays Alex's housekeeper and Mickey Rourke is a caricature billionaire businessman. With silly dialogue like "What is this place – Hogwarts?" it came across as more Johnny English than James Bond).

Instead, this is a modern take on Horowitz's books that is a fun watch for older kids and adults looking for an easy-to-follow (don't expect any Line of Duty-style elaborate plot shockers), smartly paced TV thriller.

Fans of the books may mourn the lack of quirky gadgets – the novels featured a Nintendo Gameboy that emitted a smoke screen, an ear stud that was a grenade and a Sony Discman that doubled as a buzz saw – but their omission makes the series feel more current, in the same way James Bond was slickly modernised when many of his ostentatious 'toys' (like the underwater car) were ditched for the 21st century.

a close up of a device: Alex Rider: The 10-Book Collection © Walker Books / Amazon Alex Rider: The 10-Book Collection

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The decision to start the series by adapting book two is a smart one, too. Not only is the Point Blanc story clever and includes some dramatic, snowy backdrops and opportunities for cool stunts, but as fans of the books will know, now may not have been the time to redo Stormbreaker since the central plot is about a bad guy wanting to release a killer virus into schools. (Of course, the producers made that decision many months before Any Of This Nasty Business).

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All the cinematic locations, espionage plot twists, daring stunts and smart dialogue doesn't amount to much, though, if you don't have a good cast, but the mix of well-known faces like Dillane, Ace Bhatti and McClure alongside younger stars Farrant and O'Connor works really well here, with the adults just as interesting and fleshed-out as the teens.

And while he may be a tad older than the character he plays, Farrant is really likeable as Alex – pretty important since he's in most scenes – and there's a believable best friend chemistry between him and O'Connor, as well as the hint of an intriguing maternal relationship to come between Alex and McClure's charming Mrs Jones.

While we wait for the next James Bond to come to the big screen, season one of Alex Rider is a thoroughly enjoyable substitute for spy fans, and, best of all, a worthy update of the popular book series, too.

Alex Rider will premiere on Amazon Prime on June 4.

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