Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Movie Review: I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four **
Directed by:
D.J. Caruso.
Written by: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Marti Noxon based on the book by Pittacus Lore.
Starring: Alex Pettyfer (John), Timothy Olyphant (Henri), Dianna Agron (Sarah), Teresa Palmer (Number 6), Callan McAuliffe (Sam), Kevin Durand (Mogadorian Commander), Jake Abel (Mark), Jeff Hochendoner (Sherriff James), Patrick Sebes (Kevin).

The Twilight books and movies have become a phenomenon, so it should come as little surprise that others have tried to copy it. The latest copycat is I Am Number Four, which is kind of like Superman crossed with Twilight. I suppose the writers of the book, and now the filmmakers of the adaptation, got what they wanted out of it – because I felt pretty much the same way about this movie as I do about the Twilight films – that they are way too sappy and cheesy, and yet contain at least some entertainment value. Not much mind you, but a little.

We are told at the beginning of I Am Number Four that 10 children from a planet that was destroyed were sent to earth. Their parents were all special, and had power the rest of the people from their planet did not. They were sent to earth, each with their own guardian, and are being raised so that one day they can strike back against the other alien race that destroyed their planet. This other race, the Mogadorian, has followed them to earth and is tracking them down one by one and eliminating them. The Mogadorians can only kill these kids – now teenagers – in order, and have already tracked down and killed the first three. The hero of the movie is John (Alex Pettyfer), who of course, is number four and next to be targeted for elimination. John longs to be a normal teenager, and is tired of being moved from place to place by his protective guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant). Their latest location is Paradise, Indiana, where Henri reluctantly allows John to enroll in high school – but warns him to fly under the radar. But since John is good looking, a gifted athlete and immediately falls for Sarah (Dianna Agron), the ex-girlfriend of the star quarterback, and befriends Sam (Callan McAuliffe), the school nerd, that becomes impossible. It becomes even more impossible when his powers start to develop – and he cannot control them.

For the most part, I Am Number Four, follows the Twilight set-up pretty thoroughly. There is the threat of the Mogadorian’s coming to kill John hanging over the movie – and we know that eventually there will be a showdown – but for the most part, this is a high school romance between John and Sarah – with John’s uncontrollable superpowers standing in for the changes his body is going through in puberty. John is mysterious, so of course, just like Edward in Twilight, the girls are attracted to him. He is the bad boy in this situation.

The movie spends a lot of time setting everything up – and I did appreciate that unlike the Twilight books and movies, the long awaited battle royale to end the movie actually takes place this time around (in the Twilight series, it always seems like they spend the entire movie setting up a final battle that never really comes). The battle this time does come, and it is actually fairly exciting – although I had flashbacks to the G.I. Joe cartoons I watched as a child, as the movie helpfully has the Mogadarians firing red lasers from their space guns, wheras John along with Number 6 (who of course is a hot blonde, who tracks him down to help) firing blue lasers – but they don’t needs guns for that, as they produce the laser themselves.

Overall, I Am Number Four isn’t a bad movie, really. I can see why teenage girls will really like it – and most likely make Alex Pettyfer, who to me was rather bland, into their latest sex symbol. The movie also had enough action in it though, that I can imagine really liking it if I was a young teenage boy. But to me, I Am Number Four felt like a pilot of a TV show more than an actual movie. Like all superhero franchises, it is stuck in the first movie being essentially an origin story. It spends so much time explaining everything that it never really settles into being a story in its own right. I hope the sequel – and if this movie does well, there will be a sequel – will be past that and can settle into its groove a little more. Because I Am Number Four ends at just the point where you feel the story is about to start.

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