I am Number Four (2011)

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is as original as he is human. He is a humourless teenager who actively wants to go to high school despite the danger he and his Timothy Olyphant-shaped guardian will face as a result; he has the inconvenient hots for Diana Agron’s walking baggage; and he makes a connection with the schools resident punch-bag: what a hero! To make things worse, he could show even Edward Cullen a thing or two about sparkling, one of many similarities the film holds to Meyer’s Twilight saga. An alien in exile on Earth, John is the next in line to feel his enemy’s wrath, determined so they are to hunt their superpowered prey in ascending numerical order and colonise the planet. John, you see, is Number Four.

Based on the book by Pittacus Lore, and the first in a proposed series of six, I am Number Four drops wizards, Greek Gods and Mormon vampires in favour of boringly moody aliens. Snatched up by DreamWorks Pictures, the film was handed over to D. J. Caruso in the hope that he might make a movie without walking charisma-vacuum Shia LaBeouf. Opting instead for the similarly wooden Pettyfer, I am Number Four reads like a script.

The film opens with a Kenyan skirmish as Number 3 meets a bladed end at the hands of a gilled Voldermort. At least, this is what the trailer implies. Filmed incoherently, the director clearly mistaking an absence of lighting for metaphorical darkness, our introduction to I am Number Four an altogether botched affair which leaves you squinting in the dark as a flurry of special effects apparently happen for your entertainment. Welcome, boys and girls, to another MICHAEL BAY production.

What is it with ‘young adult’ fiction and its obsession with school? Dropping all elements of escapism to drag any semblance of action right back to the classroom, I am Number Four asks what might happen if an alien ever arrived on Earth? Enrol in math seems to be the disappointing answer, as our resident Extraterrestrial decides that what it really wants to do with its time here is get embroiled in teen drama and make it to second base with the school photographer. I’d rather not, thanks, as I’ve been there, done that and outgrown the uniform.

As John is whisked from Florida to the ironically (we know it’s ironic because we’re told) named Paradise, Ohio, we are introduced to the film’s mythology, a half-baked slew of plot points that create a plot ex nihilo and introduce us to such delights as a tin-foil box of vague-ish ambiguity, a bejewelled ritualistic knife, and a shape-shifting gecko that appears to come from nowhere, climbing conveniently into the characters’ car to eventually save the day. Everything is so infuriatingly arbitrary that an hour into the film there are yet to be any real stakes established as our hero is too busy avoiding fights with the school bully to convey the gravity of his peers’ apparently desperate situation. While the Harry Potter mythology – which is clearly emulated with diminishing returns by every fledgling paranormal franchise of the last five years – oozed imagination and depth, this is just Twilight with aliens – Paradise clearly paired with Forks in the emo’s guide to America.

Thankfully, however, it’s not all for nothing. With barely half an hour to go, writer Marti Noxon seems to awaken from her self-induced coma with an ace up her sleeve. In explodes Number Six, a back-flipping Swiss army knife of kick-ass who not only saves the day but goes some way to rescuing the movie from complete failure. “Jane Doe the Alien Slayer”, Number Six is a shot of adrenaline who immediately sets about kicking seven shades of crap out of the film’s prosthetics-wearing stunt team. While not quite redeeming the dross that came before, this genuinely engaging set piece at least begins to deliver the trailer’s promise of action-packed escapism.

I am Number Four, then, is no better or worse than Cirque Du Twilight: Eragon and the Spiderwick Chronicles of the Golden Lightning Thief. It is a cheesy, pretentious and hugely derivative slice of genre entertainment that will unlikely ever see a second instalment. A few likeable performances and an explosive finale, however, save this particular adaptation from complete obsolescence.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to I am Number Four (2011)

  1. Pingback: February 2011 – Do you know the “f” word? « popcornaddict

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