Review: I Am Number Four


Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Written by:Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand
Released: February 24, 2011
Grade: C+

Based on the novel by James Frey and Jobie Hughes, I Am Number Four revolves around a group of aliens who have found their way to our planet.  There are two types – the nice aliens are the Loriens and the nasty aliens are the Mogadorians.  They display numerous human characteristics which makes it easy for them to blend into society.

They haven’t come to earth to attack us.  Rather, they’re attacking each other.  The Loriens’ planet was all but destroyed by the Mogadorians and only a small number managed to escape before it was too late.  Those Loriens are now laying low so that they can regroup and rebuild their species.  The Mogadorians have other plans.

15-year-old John Smith (Pettyfer) is one of the Loriens who managed to escape.  His special powers are developing and he is closely watched over by a guardian, Henri (Olyphant).  John wants to live a normal life – going to school, having friends – but he can’t given the circumstances.  He and Henri and forced to move from town to town, trying to remain inconspicuous and avoiding the watchful eye of the Mogadorians.

It all comes to a head in the small town of Paradise, Ohio.  John falls in love with a girl (Agron) and decides it’s time to stop running.  He now has both the ability and maturity to take up the battle against the Mogadorians.  A few new friends will be valuable in the fight as well.

You’ll be able to tell this film is based on a novel.  There’s a lot of detail to the story but with just two hours to work with, there isn’t time to provide all the necessary background material.  I had trouble understanding much about these aliens – such as their super powers and weaponry.  Further, what’s with the beast like creatures?

My criticisms aren’t limited to the adaptation.  Director D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) has taken a route which is much too safe.  This is a textbook action film that offers zero surprises.  For example, there’s a cute dog that pops into the story early on.  It’s just too obvious that it has a purpose.  The same applies for the “Number Six” character (Palmer).  Why did they show a 30 second shot of her early in the film?  Why did they even show her in the trailer?  I was just sitting in my seat, waiting for the scene where she comes in and save the day.  And what’s with the “evil” Mogadorians?  They’re not even scary at all!

The film has a couple of redeeming features.  I didn’t mind the action finale.  The special effects aren’t great but they have some fun with it and there are few good lines.  Most of them are offered by Australian actor Callan McAuliffe.  He plays John’s new best friend, Sam, a fellow teenager who saw his dad abducted by aliens (another part of the film that is underexplored).  The dialogue is dreadfully clichéd but McAuliffe does manage to “spice up” his character.  He’s a face to watch going forward.

I Am Number Four is clearly targeted at a younger audience and has been described by some as “Twilight for guys”.  That’s a fair description but I’m not convinced that this will develop an equally large fan base.  Will we see future books in the series developed into films?  My hunch says no.