I Am Number Four Directed by: D.J Caruso Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Timothy Olyphant, Callan McAuliffe, Teresa Palmer Running Time: 1 hr 48 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: February 18, 2011
PLOT: John (Pettyfer) is a teenager from another planet with special powers bestowed upon him by his alien roots. With the help of his guardian Henri, he tries to elude those trying to kill him and eight others, which would subsequently destroy his race.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Teenage boys and girls who can’t think up any better way to waste their money. Fans of fantasy/horror shows on non-cable channels have a more immediate chance at enjoying this one, especially considering their acclimation with (and subsequent acceptance of) hokey supernatural villains stomping around high school settings.
EXPECTATIONS: The producing credit for Transformers director Michael Bay was enough to get me on board with checking out I Am Number Four. I actually picked this film over a screening of the new Liam Neeson film, Unknown, which was happening the same night.
Alex Pettyfer as John Smith/Number Four: His face chiseled out of space rock, John is a “unique” kid brought to life by a mediocre performance from Pettyfer, who fails to make him a sustainable hero. Instead, it’s the fatal importance given to the character that make him so memorable (not to mention he’s in the title). As shy as he might try to look, he still looks like a high school quarterback. And while Pettyfer does a better job wearing the same kinds of shoes Garrett Hedlund did for TRON: Legacy, John Smith truly remains someone not very special. Score: 3
Dianna Argon as Sarah: John might have hands that glow during class, but Sarah is "different" from "everyone else" because she has an interest in photography (and she shoots on film, not digital! Can you believe that?) And while Sarah is the cliche helpless damsel in distress for the story, she's given a few sweet moments that make her a likable accessory. For example, after John beats the snot out of a bunch of sociopathic school bullies in night's darkness, Sarah simply says to him, "Will you walk me home?" (This is then followed by a surprisingly authentic movie smooch.) Score: 4
Timothy Olyphant as Henri: A guardian to John, he’s the "tough love" father figure with a sense of humor. He's mostly in the movie to keep John in check, aside from hands-on moment towards the beginning of the third act. Still, when Henri makes his departure from the story, it becomes apparent that the movie can function without him. Score: 3
Callan McAuliffe as Sam: We get it, he’s the geek. The script is dedicated to turning Sam into the awkward loner amongst this group of Abercrombie and Fitch models. Though Sam’s story is a bit central to the goings on of I Am Number Four, the movie doesn’t make an effort to show him compassion or care; instead he becomes the true outcast, even though this entire story is just as dorky as he is. Score: 3
Teresa Palmer as Number Six: Should this movie lead to a sequel, lets hope someone writes her better dialogue. Number Six is put into many failed attempts at being cool - she walks away from an exploding building in slow motion, she says things like "You're good with your hands" to John after they have survived with brawl, etc. Yawn. On top of this, this action-providing heroine with impeccable timing speaks in a freakish accent that unintentionally mixes British and Southern into one nasty concoction. Palmer tries to scowl hard to give the audience a female to root for, something that is only best achieved during her moments of combat. Score: 4
TALKING: John offers a couple of monologues about his situation, but despite sounding like he knows a fair amount of his own story, he doesn’t share enough of that information with us. Meanwhile, the movie’s attempt at one-liner comic relief falls flat, no matter who is attempting to deliver them. Even the ghoulish bad guy chips in with flat sarcastic quips. Score: 3
SIGHTS: Oscar-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro injects some quality into I Am Number Four with some cool slow motion sequences, and cohesive capturing of the movie’s fighting moments. It’s really good action movie cinematography. In general, the sights of the movie are very slick, from its all-American Ohio town center location (which features a camera store that still actually sells rolls of film) to the special effects. However, the same praise can’t be said about the story, etc. Thankfully, these visuals are not presented in 3D, but I Am Number Four is showing on 200+ IMAX screens, which is completely unnecessary. No one needs to see Sarah’s family dinner conversation, or anything from this movie, on a 72 x 52.8 foot screen. Score: 6
SOUNDS: I Am Number Four accompanies its teenage angst with a grab-bag of songs written by hip musicians rising to mainstream attention spans, like The Black Keys, The XX, and of course, Kings of Leon. A song by singer-songwriter Adele is used in a scene that has someone walking away from an explosion in slow motion, which is admittedly an interesting pick for such a moment. This iTunes-friendly soundtrack understates Trevor Rabin’s score, which is also hard to pay attention to when all other sounds in the movie are given mixing preference. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Though the entire final battle is more cheesy than it is exciting, the conclusive way in which John defeats the lead bad guy is pretty sweet, especially with how the slow motion photography soaks up every bit of CGI flame it can get in its frame. For a few seconds, I Am Number Four was cool.
ENDING: The film ends on a note that can only be described as “Come On, You Want To Know What Happens Next, Right?” Though it does not say “To Be Continued” at the end, it might as well say, “Find Out What Happens Next At: Wikipedia.org.” (I will be going there after I finish this review.)
QUESTIONS: If one of John's light-up moments happened once during a spelling bee, how was he able to hide it then? Is Sarah’s affinity for film cameras reflected upon this movie’s refusal to be in 3D? Where did those bullies get the night vision goggles? Who pays the cell phone bill for the bad guys? What kind of internet connection do they have? Can the bad guys speak in all languages? How did they attain their vehicles, and did they get a discount? What accent was Palmer aiming for – British or Southern? How can people fall for that bullsh*t “limping beagle” moment? Why does John leave Sarah with that sociopath? What does John’s planet look like? Just how much does John know about his condition? How long would it be for the sequel to come out, even though that’s not going to happen? What kind of spaceship did the Mogadorians come in on? Or was that a rental also?
REWATCHABILITY: No thanks. I Am Number Four would make for a frustrating second viewing.
Just like John and his freaky flashlight leg, this movie has a secret of its own that it doesn’t want people to know until its too late. While I believe a movie can’t have its advertisement strategy held against its general quality, I am also under the impression that sometimes things are left out of advertisements for a reason. This must be the case for the ads for I Am Number Four, which soaks up the “ultimate” nature of the movie, but hardly presents a solid villain, even though the nemeses make a full-figure appearance maybe fifteen minutes into the movie. Why would a studio do this? Maybe because the studio is embarrassed that people might find out too quickly that John is running away from villains more fit for a Power Rangers episode more than a feature film. And on top of that, viewers might find out too quickly that this is just a really expensive B-movie. Or a television series meant for the CW that didn’t get developed.
The villains are unmistakably silly, even though they are apparently threatening all of mankind. Though their trench coats are pretty snazzy, these violent creatures must come from the planet Voldemort, because that’s who they look like the most. On top of their bald heads are nondescript tattoos, and in their mouths they have crooked teeth that are in need of TLF (tender loving and flossing). They bumble around the world, with some type of beast (not going to spoil what that means) in the back of their truck, while in pursuit of Number Four, using the internet to locate the next potential victim of their numerical hit list. When it’s time for a showdown in the third act, they utilize colorful alien rifles. Swords by our heroes. Working with Number Four and Number Six, they officially turn this movie from stupid sci-fi action movie to, yes, an episode of a proudly geeky TV show.
Sequences that try to offer thrills are refuted by its own storytelling that rushes through logic. Too often, the movie doesn't even try to explain a few things, (or even make the alien villains truly menacing). Eventually, even when stuff is blowing up and the rival aliens really start to clash, I Am Number Four becomes a yawn-a-minute, scratch-your-head-till-you-can-take-no-more kind of experience.
Blasting into theaters with misleading advertising and the wrongful promise of IMAX worthiness, I Am Number Four is a B-movie, yes, but a really expensive one. And one that is epically serious about its hokey, non-cable channel quality storyline. Unfortunately, this film thinks it is above B-movies like Teenagers From Outer Space, which are more memorable for the ways in which people can ridicule them than their actual story. I Am Number Four can’t escape the same fate.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10