" I AM NUMBER FOUR will have its fans, and it does provide a certain amount of entertainment, but this is one of those movies where it's best if you don't risk spending full price to see it on the big screen. "
Director: D.J. Caruso
Release Date: February 18, 2011
John Smith (what an original alias!) is a teenage alien from the planet Lorien. He's on the run from some ruthless (and ruthlessly ugly) aliens known as Mogadorians who are bent on destroying him. Constantly changing his identity and moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. But things are about to be ramped up a notch as John soon encounters love, powerful new abilities, and a connection to the others who share his destiny.MY TAKE
Based on the NY Times best-selling novel by “Pittacus Lore” (an alias for the memoir-fabricating James Frey and Jobie Hughes), I Am Four kicks off the cinematic proceedings with an intense and creepy jungle chase scene and an intriguing – albeit fairly unoriginal – concept.
The planet Lorien (COUGH krypton COUGH) was destroyed, and nine of its alien children were sent to earth. Why earth? Who knows. Perhaps earth’s atmosphere is the most similar to Lorien’s? A race of 7-foot tall humanoids called the Mogadorians are hunting down the children one at a time. Why? Beats me. Because we wouldn’t have a story otherwise, I suppose. All we’re really told is “they’re a race who chooses to decimate rather than colonize.” So be it.
Anyway, due to some sort of spell the Mogadorians are forced to kill the nine remaining Lorien kids in the proper order. Who established the order and how? No idea. Wouldn’t you be pretty ticked off if you were Number One and became aware that you were chosen to be killed first? Perhaps the numbering system is completely random. Otherwise, that’s a pretty jacked up system. “Hmm, little Billy seems to be a little slow upstairs, and that lisp sure ain’t doin’ him any favors. Let’s make him Number One.” Regardless, numbers one to three are now dead, so the story focuses on Number Four.
Number Four’s desperate attempts to fit in lead to yet another blown cover, and he and his guardian Henri must once again relocate – this time to the small town of Paradise, OH. Following the film’s somewhat promising start, the story takes an ill-advised detour and bogs down in a teenage romance marsh. It’s at this point that Number Four (AKA John Smith) falls in love, defends a nerd against bullies, and begins to discover his unique abilities (known as legacies).
This blatant drawing from the well of the Twilight series’ formula might giddy up the hearts of teenage girls, but males with an ounce of testosterone will grow increasingly restless as they await the arrival of the action that the film’s trailer promised.
That arrival comes in the film’s third act in the form of a deus ex machina known as Number Six (Teresa Palmer) who proceeds to kick a satisfying amount of rumpage against the backdrop of CGI and special-effects. The last 20 minutes will most certainly entertain the majority of audiences, but the drive there should’ve been smoother and more evenly-paced.
Dialogue is weak, character development is practically non-existent, and the underdeveloped backstory creates too many questions that lead to frustration rather than intrigue. Granted, this is an origin story that’s specifically designed to kick-start a franchise, but a little more self-containment would have been appreciated.
One of the film’s biggest transgressions is the misuse of Timothy Olyphant as Henri. We’re told that he’s a Lorien warrior, and as such you’d expect him to join in the butt-kickery. Unfortunately, he’s only involved in one fight and is inexplicably kidnapped (done off-screen to mask its implausibility) by a couple of out-of-shape alien conspiracy theorists. His role is more of a babysitter for Number Four than a warrior/guardian who dispenses valuable training and wisdom.
The film presents a seed or two of hope that the franchise can improve with each installment, but will its identity crisis allow it to do so? Attempting to be all things to all teenagers could backfire if it fails to create loyalty amongst any one demographic.
Teenage audiences and those who don’t consume themselves with the story’s many flaws will be more forgiving than I. Perhaps your expectations will be exceeded, but there’s a good chance you’ll be either underwhelmed or disappointed. Wouldn’t you rather risk a dollar at Redbox than $10 a pop at the theater? Don’t say I didn’t properly inform you.
ODDS & ENDS
- In order to give the Mogadorians an ominous presence, the actors wore custom Kangool boots that made them 7-inches taller and gave them their odd, slow gait.
- The Mogadorian language was created specifically for the movie and was influenced by ancient Latin, Slavic languages, and English.
- The bully Mark (played by Jake Abel) reminded me of Steve-O.
- Mark’s father – the sheriff – looks like an older, shorter, fatter Brock Lesnar.
- If the movie does big box office then expect a sequel announcement based on the next book Lorien Legacies.
- Timothy Olyphant is in Coastlines with Josh Brolin who is in Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language, I AM NUMBER FOUR contains a suprising amount of profanity for a teenage film of this kind. Expect to hear 10+ "s" bombs along with a handful of other primetime profanities (the "b" word, a-hole, p**sies, etc.). Mama would both squirm and sigh.