A few months I found out that Sony Pictures Television was having another go at adapting the Alex Rider series of teen spy novels by Anthony Horowitz. The success of these novels spawned not only a failed film adaptation but an entire subgenre of similar material aimed at the 10-12 age market. I was a fan of these books growing up and for a straightforward as they are, they do have a level of home grown early 2000s charm that gave them such a broad appeal. It was worrying that so little was known about the new adaptation beyond the fact it existed and was sitting on a shelf somewhere but Amazon eventually picked up the rights and released the first season with hardly any promotion. I wanted to see what the new adaptation had to offer and the completist in me was willing to watch the whole season regardless of quality but my expectations were not high. Nevertheless, the first episode was a high priority watch on the Friday of release. How was it?
Normally I’d wait to watch the full season before reviewing it but I was so perplexed by some of the choices in the first episode I just had to get some thoughts down before watching the rest of the season. Firstly, I’m pretty sure at the start of Stormbreaker (the opening story of the book series although not the one being adapted in this opening episode) Alex is meant to be roughly between the ages of 12 and 14.) Everyone playing a teenager in this new adaptation looks like they have gone to the Sex Education school of actors in who look like there late 20s playing characters in early/mid-teens. It would be the equivalent of getting the cast from the final three Harry Potter films and getting them to re adapt Philosopher’s Stone. As a general rule the series seems aimed exclusively not at kids but at the first generation of fans who grew up with the character. Obviously, children will see things that may not be age appropriate on a regular basis but by trying to give this very early 2000s children’s property a slick modern count of paint it’s resulted in sequences of borderline R rated level violence that don’t fit the source material.
It’s not liked the opening episode is unfaithful or even particularly bad beyond being a slightly generic spy show. The main beats of the origin story for Rider as a character are all there. it’s just very weird watching the central actor who isn’t bad beyond being far too old for the role go through them. This first episode also weaves in elements of adapting the second story of the series into the origin and while this is an understandable choice given the film adaptation of Stormbreaker flopped hard but this episode focuses almost exclusively on the origin and it’s hard to tell how’s the series will go about adapting the actual story’s beyond the fact that if this episode is anything to go by it will attempt to give this young adult property a sense of edge.
Based on the first episode the new Alex Rider TV adaptation is the strangest of things. an adaptation of a children’s/ young adult property that I’d be hesitant to show younger fans. The central beats of the origin story for the character are mostly present and correct but the showrunners insistence to give this property a sense of hard edged cool. doesn’t work