Review of I Am Number Four

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Aliens and their Guardians are hiding on Earth from intergalactic bounty hunters. They can only be killed in numerical order, and Number Four is next on the list. This is his story. Starring Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron & Callan McAuliffe and based on the book of the same name by Jobie Hughes and James Frey. 

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Movie Review: "I Am Number Four"

-- Rating: PG-13 (violence, intense action, and language)
Length: 109 minutes
Release Date: February 18, 2011
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama/Science Fiction

"I Am Number Four" continues the "Twilight" tradition of taking the outcasts of teenage society and elevating them to the status of people with a higher purpose than any of the cool kids could have ever dreamed of. The movie quickly establishes in the first opening moments that there are aliens called Loriens living among us here on Earth as a way to hide in plain sight from their mortal enemies, the Mogadorians. These villains destroyed almost all life on the Earth-like planet of Lorien and are on a mission to kill the last nine surviving children of that planet in sequential order, based on an arbitrary number designation. These children are known as the Garde, and each possesses superpowers. After a chaotic tropical battle, Number Three soon meets his demise-in a very loud and blinding manner.
Now they are ready to move on to Number Four. Our misunderstood antihero in this story is John Smith, played by the young English actor Alex Pettyfer. John was living a pretty nondescript existence in Florida when word came of Number Three's murder. His Cêpan protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), uproots them in order to obtain new identities. They end up in the small town of Paradise, Ohio, and John enrolls in the local high school. He soon becomes quite attached to Sarah (Dianna Agron from "Glee"), a cheerleader who is not impressed by the resident jock clique. Loriens take love very seriously, because they stay with one partner for life. This rejection of the status quo paints John as a target for the football players, especially after he takes up with the ufologist geek Sam (Callan McAuliffe).

Although his masquerading father Henri orders him to keep low, John demonstrates some of his budding superhero abilities. Sarah is a shutterbug, so one of her videos that show John's glowing hands and immense strength eventually ends up on YouTube. The Mogadorians are made aware of John's location because of this, and wild chases ensue with battles galore. The climax is reached when John meet's Number Six (Teresa Palmer). Her power is force field manipulation. Together, they combine their powers in some pretty unique ways in order to defeat the Mogadorian hunter contingent.

Produced by Michael Bay of "Transformers" and "Armageddon," this film has no lack of CGI thrills or special effect treats. An over-reliance on these goodies-though x-ray gun battles and shape shifting are cool-seems to detract from the development of characters, who have great potential. This weakens an otherwise compelling script adaptation of Pittacus Lore's book and diminishes the enjoyment for audiences seeking something a little deeper than a high school diary movie with pretty colors and lots of explosions. The soundtrack, consisting of music by artists like XX and The Black Keys, fits the movie, which makes a difference to some viewers.

The cast of teenagers is like a smorgasbord of beautiful people. Even the geeks are gorgeous, which makes the film feel disingenuous and not true to the ideas set forth in the book series. It has a "Dawson's Creek" meets "Smallville" ambiance, yet John is no Pacey Witter nor is he Clark Kent. Even the supposedly vile and bloodthirsty Mogadorians seem merely like caped Goths with gills. They certainly aren't the "Sons of Anarchy," no matter how cool they think they are on their motorcycles. In addition, they are easy to kill with a knife and fade away to ashes when they die.

Though it individually deals well with teen angst/identification issues and the aliens chasing their quarry all over the United States, the two elements don't seem to mesh well together as a singular, solid story. Fans of the book series will note the lack of background character stories and relationship development. Someone important dies, but the death is muted because there is very little known about him or her. There are some great moments that could have really been something, but the execution of the storylines made them fall flat. One of the screenplay writers is Marti Noxon, who also worked on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," so maybe this is why the script seems to be more small-screen than big picture. D.J. Caruso's ("Disturbia") direction appears to have been quite erratic. There is a spark here, but it really needed more time to burn. It would take a sequel to tie up all the loose ends.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars