Review: 'I Am Number Four' Made Me Want To Take A Number Two
February 18th, 2011 9:53am EST
For whatever case I cannot explain, I found this failed franchise simply dull. The film’s hype, its synopsis and information I had gathered had more of an appeal than the actual narrative piece. I can almost bet my life by mid April I know this will be a forgotten film. Why? Well, this bit of teen-pandering sci-fi is about as inoffensive and blandly entertaining as director D.J. Caruso's last film ‘EAGLE EYE’ (’08), but cut from an even less original corner of the sci-fi genre. Leads Alex Pettyfer and Dianna Agron are two perfectly attractive young snobs who look great while running away from evil aliens, but neither they nor Caruso's direction helps enough to the too-familiar story to set it particularly apart.
Pettyfer, a “rising star” so far in name only—this is his first piece to see release—stars as “Number Four,” an alien escapee from a dying planet who goes by the human alias of John Smith. Escorted by fellow alien handler Henri (Timothy Olyphant) who poses as his father, John is constantly on the run from the evil Mogadorians, the humanoid alien species apparently a few genetic steps removed from Klingons, who are slowly hunting down the other refugees like John and killing them. When Number Three is killed—an event John is aware of thanks to a glowing body mark that's never properly explained—he and Henri move on from Key West to small-town Ohio, where John must pose as an average high school kid while Henri figures out the next step.
After kicking off with two separate alien attacks (one in flashback), ‘I AM NUMBER FOUR’ sets quickly into pretty standard high school drama crap, as John falls for beautiful photographer Sarah (Agron), befriends the lonely nerd Sam (Callan McAuliffe) who actually believes in aliens, and constantly clashes with a cocky jock (Jake Abel) who shares a lot of DNA with Andrew McCarthy's popped-collar Blane from ‘PRETTY IN PINK’ (’86). It just isn't easy being the new guy in school, especially when you're discovering superpowers that make your hands light up in the middle of class, and especially when those sloped-forehead Mogadorians are hot on your trail and not afraid to use your girl as a hostage.
The screenplay by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar—adapting the young adult novel by James Frey and Jobie Hughes—works a few surprises into the familiar high school scenario; an action scene set at a haunted house goes in some unexpected directions, and the more we learn about Number Four's outer space world, the stranger and somewhat interesting it gets. But as ‘I AM NUMBER FOUR’ gears up toward the third-act fireballs and fights, any enticing appeal gets washed away by lots of CGI and girls walking slowly away from explosions (Teresa Palmer, who shows up a bit tardi as the alien “Number Six,” makes for a cool bad-girl to Agron's buttoned-up Sarah). By the end it's even turned into a kind of ‘SPIDER-MAN’ (’00) cheap reboot, as a young man standing in a graveyard, contemplates the meaning of his great power and responsibility.
What is it with wussy teenagers who seem reluctant to accept they’re a superhero. They’re always confused and questioning whether it’s right or wrong. Man, if I was a teen and acquired powers, I’d be the happiest person roaming the face of this earth. I’d utilize it for purposes of good—maybe bad too—and last but not least, the girls! Girls LOVE empowered men, as does the rest of the world.
You never see Iron Man questioning his powers or any of the X-Men! These cats know they’re on to something beyond anyone’s control or comprehension.
What is it with Hollywood “American” teens?!
Oh, well, lucky for everyone behind ‘I AM NUMBER FOUR,’ their target audience may not be old enough to have seen the first ‘SPIDER-MAN’ in theaters, much less ‘PRETTY IN PINK,’ and all of the movie's moments of unoriginality could wash right over the girls wooed by Pettyfer's good looks or the boys in need of a Michael Bay (a producer for the film) action fix before the next ‘TRANSFORMERS’ movie!
GRADE: D+ / GENRE: Action/Adventure, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Thriller and Adaptation / ROARS: 2 out of 5
RATED: PG-13 / RUN TIME: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
STARRING: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Kevin Durand
DIRECTOR: D.J. Caruso
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