2011 is the year of the aliens. Apparently, Hollywood is moving from vampires and werewolves (and zombies) to beings from outer space. Battle: Los Angeles and Cowboys and Aliens are both set to debut this spring, so we’ve got the wars and Westerns covered. In I Am Number Four, we have the action/adventure love story.
John (up and comer Alex Pettyfer -Tormented) is one of nine aliens hiding out on planet Earth. The Nine are the last of their species, the Loriens. They are spread out all over the planet, each paired up with a guardian until they can harness, understand and control their superhuman powers. The film opens with Number Three meeting his demise at the hands of a rival alien race, the Mogadorians.
Number Three’s death sends John (aka Number Four) into a near-seizure, which would be fine if he wasn’t swimming with a hot girl just outside of a beach party. His skin actually lights up, sending all the other kids into a tizzy, and causing him to flee. When he regains consciousness, we meet his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant -The Crazies). Henri tells John they have to leave, and the pair departs Florida for a little place called Paradise, Ohio.
In Paradise, John tries to fit in, but the typical elements of high school keep him from blending in. He befriends a nerd named Sam (Callan McAuliffe - Flipped), begins a rivalry with the quarterback of the football team (Percy Jackson bad guy Jake Abel) and falls head over heels for Sarah (Glee's Dianna Agron ). That would be fine for any normal kid, but every noticeable thing John does creates one more chance that the Mogs will find him, and kill him next.
This part of the story takes a while to develop, with romance largely replacing action until John figures out just what he can do with some of his powers. The Mogs are tracking him, intent on killing the Nine (in order, according to the book; a fact that is barely mentioned in the film). They even set a trap for him, using two redneck conspiracy theorists to do their dirty work. Things go poorly, and John finds himself outnumbered, overpowered, and desperate for some help.
Fortunately, help comes in the form of an unlikely pet, and a super hot blonde on a red motorcycle. The final act more than makes up for the pacing speed bump earlier in the film, and the lasers and lightning start flying everywhere. Of course, the love story stays intact throughout, and the ending perfectly sets up a sequel, which is likely if the film does well at the box office.
Based on the book with the same title, I am Number Four plays out very much like a Hollywood swing at a young adult story with a big budget. The soundtrack screams “my first teen love”, and the accent on romance keeps it just emo enough. In all fairness, director D.J. Caruso does get the first kiss pretty much perfect. The Mogs are a fun bunch of bad guys. They basically look like a tattooed and pierced set of Max Schreck descendants in outfits from The Matrix. The action sequences are done well, thankfully free of skipped frames, quick cuts and digital dizziness. As expected in anything produced by Michael Bay, there are a few explosions, some CGI critters, and plenty of slow motion.
Pettyfer is a pretty good hero. He looks a little old for a high school senior, but he plays his part well. Olyphant is fantastic as the overprotective guardian/father figure. Agron makes Sarah easy to fall for, and Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) makes a great bombshell. Kevin Durant (The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) gives the Mog leader some much-needed personality.
Number Four isn’t a classic for all ages, but it’s very good at what it’s trying to be; a young adult love story wrapped in a Hollywood action flick. The acting is solid. The effects are generally good, and there are plenty of stunts, and an okay storyline. Other than the sappy soundtrack and the bit of odd pacing, it’s a solid flick. If I had a teenager who wanted to hit the movies this weekend, I would seriously recommend this over the alternative.
Sorry, Bieber, but this time the aliens win.
The DVD from Touchstone/Disney features a collection of bloopers, as well as the short featurette, Becoming Number Six , which focuses on actress, Theresa Palmer, and the workouts and training she underwent for her role. Also included are trailers for this and other Disney releases.