Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesWhen a fire broke out at her father’s mutagenics lab, April O’Neil (Megan Fox) secretly rescued the endangered test subjects and released them into the nearest sewer. Years later, while working as a reporter for Channel 6 News, she encounters them once more, now mutated into a team of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — consisting of Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Raphael (Alan Ritchson) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) — and their rodent sensei, Splinter (Tony Shalhoub). She shares her discovery with Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), her cameraman, and Eric Sachs (William Fitcher), an old friend of her father’s. Unbeknownst to her, however, the latter is actually in cahoots with Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), an evil martial arts master who — acting through his Foot Clan — has been terrorising New York for years. In fact, it was her father who had started the fire, all those years ago, in an attempt to keep Project Renaissance out of Sachs’ hands.

Even as superhero origin stories go, the formation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is particularly elaborate, convoluted and preposterous. Director Jonathan Liebesman tries to get everything in there — the catchphrases, the supporting characters, the pizza — but in the process of doing so makes everything even more contrived. In this latest incarnation of the story April once owned the turtles as pets, Splinter learned ninjitsu from a pamphlet blown in from the gutter and Sachs’ need the turtles’ blood in order to produce an antidote for a toxin his master is preparing to unleash on New York City — for monetary gains. It doesn’t require a suspension of disbelief so much as a complete dismissal of it.

Thankfully, Liebesman is aware of how ludicrous it all sounds, and rather than aping the self-serious schtick of producer Michael Bay’s own Transformers franchise he seems perfectly happy to embrace the concept’s inherent silliness. As a result Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is far more entertaining than anyone could reasonably have expected, and this is in large part down to how self-depricatingly funny it is. Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Evan Daugherty’s screenplay references everything from Nolan’s Batman and the mysteries of Lost to its own cinematic and television heritage — as well as addressing an earlier iteration of the script featuring a controversial extra terrestrial origin for the characters. “Aliens?” April asks, “No, that’s stupid”. You can’t help but smile.

Amazingly for four motion-capture characters often performed and voiced by two different sets of actors, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelango have real chemistry. Their redesigns may not be particularly handsome but they are incredibly expressive, and their scenes together are a joy to watch  — whether they’re facing off against the foot or goofing off with each other. Liebesman perhaps more than any previous franchise director has really pushed the immaturity of his teenage heroes, and this comes to the fore in two of the film’s most entertaining set pieces — first during a car chase down a snowy mountainside in which Michelangelo tries to save April and “that old guy” (Arnett) from certain death and later in an elevator on their way to battle Shredder when the foursome burst into song. Even Fox is quite good fun as April, an aspiring journalist who is tired of doing puff-pieces and wants to break her own story.

Though far from great, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t bad either. In fact, it’s the best film that Michael Bay has put his name to in years, producing more memorable moments than his four Transformers movies combined.

3-Stars

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Transformers: Age Of Extinction (2014)

Age of ExtinctionYears after the Battle of Chicago, the Autobots have been forced into hiding by CIA officer Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), while sister organisation the KSI are using Megatron’s decapitated head to create their own robot army, to be lead by prototype Galvatron (Frank Welker). Attinger has enlisted the help of alien bounty hunter Lockdown (Mark Ryan), and together they trace Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to Texas, where he is being rebuilt by inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz). The three escape thanks to Tessa’s boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor), and soon reunite with Bumblebee, Hound (John Goodman), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Crosshairs (John DiMaggio). They are each called upon by Prime to help storm the government facility and put an end to scientist Joshua Joyce’s (Stanley Tucci) work.

Of course, running in at a truly astonishing 165 minutes this only begins to scratch the surface of Transformers: Age Of Extinction‘s plot. The film opens during the Cretaceous Period, where The Creators put a premature end to dinosaur life with the aid of Seeds, devices which “cyberform” planets by exposing them to “Transformium”. One botched jump cut later and all that remains of this extinction event is a metal T-Rex skeleton, unearthed by a character who we will not meet again for hours. You see, Attinger is helping Lockdown track down Prime in exchange for one such Seed, for unknown reasons. Everything in this film happens for unknown reasons.

Instead, we meet Cade Yeager, a character who is even more preposterous than his name might have you believe. He’s an inventor who specialises in crap, and who seems to think that a world populated by futuristic alien robots will be interested in a beer-retrieval machine that only occasionally works. After all, it’s not like advanced synthetic life has literally only just been shown to have predated humankind by 65 million years. He is father to Tessa, who is only notable for wearing a skirt that is so short you can see the lining of her pockets against her naked legs — often that is all you can see. It’s a relationship that fails to convince on just about every level possible, particularly with the introduction of Shane, an Irish racer who is hilariously dubbed Lucky Charms by Wade.

If the human characters are insufferable then the Transformers are just plain inexplicable. Despite having now directed four feature films on the subject (four very, very long feature films), Michael Bay still doesn’t seem to understand his titular aliens. We’ve already had girl robots, urban robots and even robot testicles, but Age Of Extinction only confuses things further by introducing robot cigarettes, techno-organic space wolves and prehistoric robots that transform into dinosaurs — you know, just in case they had to blend in with those animals their forebears had already eradicated. Most baffling of all is Drift, a Japanese alien robot who refers to Optimus Prime as sensei and wears a robot cloak into robot battle. Despite being aliens who spend most of their time as automobiles, their exchanges make regular references to chess, ballet and fortune cookies. For unknown reasons.

There really are an astonishing number of characters vying — unsuccessfully — for the audience’s attention. The first film involved a handful or Autobots fighting a handful of Decepticons, while a handful of humans avoided being squashed underfoot. It too was awful, but while the visual effects were completely incomprehensible the story at least made some sort of sense. This latest film boasts Autobots, Decepticons, a new handful of human characters (including a second Hong Kong-set ensemble during the last act), human-made Transformers, The Creators, inter-galactic bounty hunters, a car which seems to exist for the sole purpose of giving the Transformers paint jobs and Dinobots, which may star in the promotional material but in reality only play a pitiful role in proceedings. Even with nearly three hours at his disposal, Bay can’t even begin to make sense of his own story. That said, given how terrible Ehren Kruger’s script is (“I know you have a conscience because you’re an inventor like me”) you can’t help but wonder if he ever even tried.

Nobody makes a film as bad as Transformers: Age Of Extinction by accident; Bay has spent the last seven years honing his craft, methodically weeding out every redeeming feature the first few films may have had until he is left exclusively with the worst aspects of contemporary feature filmmaking. Transformers: Age Of Extinction, with its interminable action scenes, cynical product placement and overwhelming contempt for its audience, doesn’t refer to the end of prehistoric or modern life, but the death of cinema as we know it.

0.5-Stars

 

If 2011 Were A Movie…

In recent years we have seen Hollywood tap a variety of different resources in its ongoing search for new ideas. Stopping just short of sticking its hand down the side of the sofa and rummaging for loose inspiration, Tinseltown has instead chosen to adapt everything from the usual books, video games and television shows, to websites, theme park rides and – I still can’t quite believe it –  even board games. So, why not an entire year?

If 2011 were a movie, aside from reflecting such recent events as The Royal Wedding, the London riots, the Eurozone crisis and those pandas arriving at Edinburgh zoo, it would also have to reflect the trends and tendencies prevalent in the films it has seen released during its tenure. As such, it would most likely be a remake of a foreign language prequel, a motion-capture throwback and a steamy tale of friends with benefits, with no strings attached.

If 2011 were a movie it would star Michael Fassbender as a man haunted by an unsuppressable Irish accent, Ryan Gosling as someone who can wear clothes really well, and Natalie Portman in the midst of what must amount to the most productive pregnancy ever. Stellan Skarsgård would play a man with a hidden agenda, Felicity Jones’ character would ultimately win your heart and Justin Timberlake would appear as a surprisingly capable actor.

If 2011 were a movie it would be set in Rio de Janeiro, where endangered birds come to mate, the fast are as fun as they are furious, and vampires routinely honeymoon.  At least, that is, until Michael Bay crashes a Transformer into it, forcing our heroes to set sale, on stranger tides, in search of the secret of the unicorn. On a Zeppelin. It would see McLovin slay some vampires, James Bond team up with Indiana Jones, and Queen Amidala wooed by a bunch of carrots and a period mix.

If 2011 were a movie it would be called 2011: The Movie – Part II Of The Rise Of The Planet of The Apes Of The Moon 3D (in 4romascope). It would have more punctuation than characters, more dimensions than punctuation, and in all likelihood be prefixed with Green. It would be a kid’s film by Martin Scorsese, a superhero movie by Michael Gondry, a live action movie by Brad Bird and an animated movie by Steven Spielberg.

If 2011 were a movie it wouldn’t be as good as the book, the original or the trailer for Sucker Punch made it out to be. It would miscast Liam Neeson, boast too much Nicolas Cage, and at some point feature a fat character shaving his head and shitting into her dress. Worst of all, however, New Year’s Eve would kill the finale. And it would be inexplicably steampunk.

More importantly, however, if 2011 were a movie I would pay to see it. I would marvel at its melancholy, gasp at its production values and laugh unabashedly at its failure to kill Bono. It would be surprisingly heartfelt for a summer blockbuster, unexpectedly jaw-dropping for a low budget Norwegian flick, as funny as the TV show, and a fitting conclusion to a much loved franchise.

If 2011 were a movie, 2012 would have a lot to live up to.

Fails of the Year – 2011

Forever wishing to give cinema the benefit of the doubt – especially as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo appear to be in such capable hands – I have decided to hold off on judging the year’s best films until I have had the opportunity to catch up on a few more. I feel no such responsibility with making similar conclusions regarding the year’s most unforgivable affronts to the medium of film, however, and with my predictions only proving partially accurate, a few glaring oversights coming back to bore me as the year drew on, here are the top ten movies that left me wishing I could have found my life’s driving passion in sport or music instead.

10. Apollo 18

While it is generally accepted that low-budget found-footage movies will delay the money shot until the last possible moment – when they know for sure how much money they have left to spend on it, no doubt – Apollo 18 takes this rule of thumb to the extreme. Divulging little more about its central trio than that they like barbeques and dislike accidentally rubbing jalapenio juice into their crotches, director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego ensures that by the end of our tenure aboard the titular space ship alongside our fellow astronauts we are wishing we could finish them off ourselves. There is a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon, and it appears to be because it was so damn boring the last time.

9. Take Me Home Tonight

What is it about the 80s that provokes such unwavering nostalgia? With Hollywood throwing back with films such as The Rocker and Hot Tub Time Machine, there appears to be a perfectly renewable audience for movies that channel boomboxes, Farrah hair and Back to the Future. Starring Topher Grace, a particularly desperate looking Anna Farris and – in a turn of events that will no doubt turn the world inside out – an overweight comic actor who is even more hateful than Jack Black and Zach Galifianakis combined, this movie is aimed exclusively at the type of person who longs to have been alive in the 80s, where they could “do it” on a trampoline and solve all of life’s problems by riding a giant metal ball into a swimming pool – the director, then.

8. Bad Teacher

Much has been made of the similarities between Bad Teacher and curmudgeonly classic Bad Santa. To me, however, any such comparisons end swiftly with the titular prefix. Where the latter was subversive, witty and oddly charming, Bad Teacher is a one dimensional, derivative and woefully crass exercise in Bad Filmmaking. Cameron Diaz’s Halsey is a bad teacher because she makes her pupils watch TV instead of read books, because she dresses inappropriately at the sponsored car wash and because she plans her next boob-job when she should be marking papers. Hilarious, huh?

7. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

I get it, fat people are funny. Three movies in, though, you might imagine that Regency Enterprise had something more to say – some flesh to add to the premise’s big bones and trademark fat suit. Interpreting this criticism as a categorical need for more fat people to laugh at, the studio has duly provided us with Brandon T. Jackson as the rapper son of Malcolm Turner’s cross-dressing undercover agent. Seriously, with some of the rubbish that has been accepted into Juilliard in recent years, I’m really failing to understand how it is still so prestigious? With Turner having now been in the role for over a decade – A DECADE! – we can only hope that this spells the end of Big Momma’s Franchise.

6. New Year’s Eve

Imagine every base-level romantic comedy you’ve seen in the last 10 years. Now imagine watching them all again, at once, without any of the pleasure – however guilty – and all of the bits that make you wish you could swallow your own face. With dire performances, a self-congratulatorally indulgent narrative and jokes that are almost (but importantly not even) hysterically unfunny, New Year’s Eve is to cinema what the ball drop is apparently to New Yorkers: a hollow and desperately sad piece of pig-ignorant Americana that you can feel actively sucking the splendour out of life, one cameo at a time.

5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

With Megan Fox ostracised for calling MICHAEL BAY a Nazi (Poland must be the only country he hasn’t blown up), and the film’s director echoing star Shia LaBeouf’s admission that the second film really was utter pants, it looked like Transformers: Dark of the Moon was on track to be at least watchable; a first for the franchise. Instead, it was business as usual at the pixel factory as the robots fight, the girl pouts and Sam Witwicky runs, runs as fast as he can lest he pause long enough to have to try on a new facial expression. With the trilogy finally – mercifully – over, perhaps now we can leave Bay to his career-long mid-life crisis and get on tempting our brains out of Autobot-induced hibernation. No, I can’t tell what’s going on in the picture either.

4. Green Lantern

Considering how much time I’ve spent banging on about the merits of silly superheroes (of which Hellboy is still by and far the best), the irony – or is it hypocrasy? – of my distaste for Green Lantern has certainly not gone unnoticed. For while it might forgo the tiresome “darker is better” mantra that has been redefining Hollywood ever since Christopher Nolan cleared his throat with Batman Begins, it is a movie completely lacking in any talent and/or workable humour to offset the story’s resounding hocum. All the talk of the emerald energy of willpower and yellow power of fear is frankly too much, and with appalling special effects to match the script my biggest fear is that Green Lantern might have played right into Nolan’s gritty hands.

3. Cowboys and Aliens

Renamed after Cowboys and Aliens and More Aliens and Convenient Phoenix Metaphors and Indians and Sam Rockwell and God and a Hummingbird performed poorly with test audiences, Cowboys and Aliens was one of the most obnoxious, humourlous and darn right ridiculous movies released his summer. Side-lining Harrison Ford (why? WHY?) in favour of Old Expressionless and Plot Point #4 (dutifully reprising her role from last year’s Tron: Legacy), John Favreau effectively made the anti-Iron Man: a comic book adaptation that took itself far too seriously. Ford is the best thing in Cowboys and Aliens by a good Kessel Run – and that’s coming from someone who really likes hummingbirds.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Rather than confronting the issues harmonised by the planet’s critics, Rob Marshall’s apparent overhaul never makes it beneath the surface. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a pale imitation of a once great, and then at least competent, franchise; a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns in action. Shot largely in the dark and depriving Jack Sparrow of a sparring partner (wasting the character in the thankless role of straight man), this latest adaptation of the Disneyland attraction is anything but a roller-coaster ride, providing precisely zero swash for your buckle.

1. Sucker Punch

I forgive you for being enticed by the stylish and action-packed trailer. After all, I was right there with you. It made the film look sleek, layered and, above all, coherent. A squad of asylum inmates escape into an alternate reality, Alice in Wonderland style, and must fight an array of fantastical monsters for a series of items that will lead to their freedom in the real world – sound about right? Turns out, however, that these items were little more than a map from the next room, a lighter from a visiting suit’s pocket, a kitchen knife from their workplace, a key from around their orderly’s neck and a not-so-mysterious “sacrifice”. Not a steampunked zombie Nazi in sight.

Also worthy of mention: The Green Hornet, Red Riding Hood, 30: Minutes or Less, The Three MusketeersImmortals, AbductionColombiana, Conan the BarbarianProm, The Hangover: Part II, Horrible Bosses, Just Go With It.

FILM NEWS: Battleship trailer sinks; where do we go from here?

The first trailer – barely a teaser – has landed online for Universal Pictures’ upcoming Battleship, the latest feature film to attempt to bring a children’s game/toy kicking and screaming to the big screen.

Following in the footsteps of Transformers, batteries are almost certainly included, along with implausibly massive explosions, a pair of denim short shorts and an utterly bafflingly alien invasion plot. Rather than attempt to locate a story somewhere in the game’s instruction manual, director Peter Berg has instead taken the MICHAEL BAY route and blown anything that can’t be unsuitably sexualised into a million or so pixels.

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Tadanobu Asano, Jesse Plemons, Alexander Skarsgård, Liam Neeson and *cough* Rihanna, Battleship – the trailer for which can be scrutinised here – has already come under fire for not only being completely incomprehensible, but uniformly spiritless too.

But Battleship is just one of many adaptations looming on the horizon. Having exhausted the previous century’s stock of horror movies, raided the tombs of a thousand video game stores, made their way through just about every superhero ever pencilled and tapped the planet’s theme parks for any filmic potential, Hollywood has apparently stopped by Toys ‘R’ Us on its way to the next film factory (Disneyland, it seems, with Alice in Wonderland and Beastly heralding yet another age of unenlightenment). Joining Battleship in a cineplex near you will be Ouija, Monopoly and – presumably – Bucking Bronco too.

So, what next? After Battleship has sunk its opponent, the next seventeen “supernatural romances” have swooned into theatres and Snow White has conquered her cross-studio split personality, where else is there for Hollywood to turn in its evasion of new and original ideas? Perhaps they could turn to supermarkets; I’ve always wanted to see how Coco managed to usurp the position of Coco Pops mascot from Sooty (with explosives and short shorts), how the Jolly Green Giant got into the sweetcorn business (with explosives and short shorts) and what the exact nature of Red and Yellow’s (M&M’s spokescandies) relationship might be (with explosives and short shorts).

Ideas people? Hollywood isn’t about to start helping itself!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

In 1961 a wayward Autobot transport crash-landed on the moon, sparking a space race as U.S. and Soviet forces competed to reach the downed craft first. In the present day, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) can’t get a job despite having saved the planet twice during the previous films. Living with new girlfriend Carly Spencer (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley), Sam grows jealous of her successful career and suave boss (Patrick Dempsey). When the supposedly defunct Decepticon army is discovered to be behind a number of assassinations – including an attempt on Sam’s life – he is reunited with his Autobot friends and faced with the greatest challenge of his life: to prevent the amassing Decepticon forces from enslaving the human race and relocating their home planet into our own solar system.

When MICHAEL BAY, Shia Labeouf and just about everyone else responsible for Transformers 2, Revenge of the Fallen, apologized for the irredeemable clusterfuck of a movie previously inflicted upon cinema audiences, I was foolish enough to believe that lessons had been learned and changes would be made. Heck, they even got rid of Megan “I wouldn’t know a Nazi if he ethnic cleansed me” Fox.

I imagined executive producer Steven Speilberg calling for an intervention; sitting MICHAEL BAY down, asking him to remove that stupid baseball cap, and reminding him what Transformers was actually all about. I imagined him explaining, again, that it wasn’t a story of window dressing, go-faster stripes and whatever other pixellated ornamentation that could be thrown at the screen. That it wasn’t even about the big-breasted bimbos told that if they hold on to Witwicky’s hand – real tight – they might get to act in a real movie. It’s a story of friendship, the tale of one boy and his car – a car that just happens to be a intergalactic digibot.

I was naive of course, no such exchange ever took place; or, if it did, MICHAEL BAY’s attention wandered at the baffling lack of explosions. Sam can’t get a job, he’s a disappointment to his father and a bit jealous of Patrick Dempsey. In a film longer than time itself, that doesn’t exactly qualify as astute characterization. But Transformers isn’t about characterization, you call from behind your head brace, it’s about the timeless war being waged over Cyberton by Decepticons and Autobots. Sure, whatever, but it’s not like that ever really impresses either.

From day one we have been bombarded with images of special effects kicking all sorts of special effects out of other special effects as buildings fall and humans shoot their little guns. The second instalment – however terrible – at least had the sense to take the battle elsewhere, delivering an Egyptian set-piece that at least cast some quasi-originality on the warring mechanoids. Dark of the Moon isn’t so adventurous, right from the off we disappear into a robot eye as some millionaire animator pushes buttons and types numbers. From this point on we are relentlessly bombarded with images of robots diving through buildings in a blur of CGI that quickly exhausts the retina and numbs the brain.

Wasn’t it Chicago we saw destroyed last time around? Or was it somewhere else? Wherever it was I’m pretty sure there was a skyscraper involved, exploding all over the place. With the exception of odd moments – a sky dive at least brings some novelty, however fleeting – it is simply business as usual at the pixel factory, all exploded out and running on empty.

BAY attempts to compensate for the unashamed aesthetic focus with humour, but it’s the humour of a man who still wears a baseball cap at the age of 46 and thinks racial stereotypes are cool. Gone are the racist twins,  in their place an array of equally offensive and idiotic characters fighting over your raging goat (remind me, why exactly might an alien robot have a Scottish accent, a sexual appetite or a penchant for head-scarves?). Poor John Malkovich gets to gum about for 10 words before being forgotten about for the rest of the movie. A rare display of mercy, especially when you see the mockery that is made of Alan Tudyk for daring to stay longer than his required plot advancement.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is, quite simply, inordinately dull. For two hours we dutifully watch as a slew of tired caricatures march about, because that’s precisely what their morning alphabites instructed them to do, until the cybershit can really hit the fan and fun can finally be had for the remaining 30 minutes. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley might not be as completely hopeless as Megan Fox – a statement akin to proclaiming chlamydia not quite as bad as gonorrhea – but what’s the point in even having her there if all she’s going to do is pout and try not to get in the way of the explosions. A tired end to a tedious trilogy, Transformers: Dark of the Moon hopefully heralds a franchise eclipse that will last the rest of its director’s career-long mid-life crisis.

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.