Written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Marti Noxon
Directed by D.J. Caruso
Running Time: 1:50
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.
I Am Number Four was a decent teen Sci-Fi film that had some exciting moments but didn't reach the levels of the book.
John Smith a.k.a. Number Four is from the planet Lorien. His planet had been destroyed by the Mogadorians and John and eight others were able to escape to Earth. Now, the Mogadorians have come to our planet to hunt down the Loriens one by one. The first three are dead and John is up next. Having moved constantly in his life, when John and his protector Henri end up in Paradise, Ohio, John quickly falls for a local girl, Sarah. When trouble arises and Henri says they must move again, John stands his ground and refuses to do so. He tells his secret to his new friend Sam, whose father was abducted by aliens a few years earlier. Or so he believes. But when the Mogadorians track John down, the only thing he can do is fight. And he gets help from a source he never expected.
I read the book recently and really enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for the movie. The movie wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. There were a few things that they changed from the book, a couple of which I felt would have added to the story. But for the most part they stayed true to the original novel. What struck me most as I was watching was that it almost felt like I was watching a more expensive version of a show on the CW. Just now as I was putting this review together, I realized that the writers are all teen TV drama alumni, having worked on shows like Smallville and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could honestly see this story making a perfect TV show. You've got the premise of an alien coming to this planet. You've got the overarching story line of him needing to find the others like him, while another group is trying to kill them. You've got the geeky friend who is tough when he needs to be. You've got the hot girlfriend. And you've got the kick-ass girl who probably has a heart of gold under that tough exterior. That kind of show could go on for years as they travel from town to town, searching for others. I almost wish they had gone that route instead of making a feature, though with built-in sequels, I suppose it was a smart move. I don't know how long the book series is supposed to go, but as there were nine Loriens and only three are dead, we've still got a few left to track down and if each one takes up their own book... we could be looking at the next Harry Potter-esque heptalogy.
So there's John, played by Alex Pettyfer, who in the book was 15, but in the movie can't possibly be. Everyone is still in high school so I guess they're supposed to be in the 17-18 range. He's a good lead, and the ladies in the audience certainly agreed. He only takes off his shirt once (sorry girls) but it lead to the loudest squealing of the evening. I actually liked him as John - he was a good mix of soft and hard depending on what he was doing. He worked well with Sarah, played by Glee star Dianna Agron. She's got that perfect girl-next-door quality about her and let's face it, she's rather easy on the eyes. I wasn't expecting someone like Timothy Olyphant to be playing someone's alien guardian, but he worked. He had a lot of one-liners that seemed to go over the head of a lot of people, but I liked them. And Callan McAuliffe as Sam was the one age appropriate looking person in the cast. He seemed almost too geeky for someone like John to hang out with, but I could see a bond growing. Teresa Palmer played the blond bad-ass Number Six, who, instead of hiding like the rest of the Loriens, was out searching for them. She got the loudest cheer of the entire movie when she makes her big entrance in the school fight. And then there was the adorable little puppy that followed John around everywhere. But again, all of them would have been perfect in a TV series rather than a feature film. None of them have a true movie star feel to them. Pettyfer is probably the one that has the real breakout potential, and he's back in theaters again soon with Beastly so this one-two punch of films could make him the latest heartthrob of the teen world.
There were a couple of things I absolutely did not like about the movie, and the biggest one was the way the Mogadorians were presented. These are supposed to be scary killing machines and instead they came off as goofballs, commenting on American society and giggling at comic books? C'mon. There was nothing scary about any of them. There was one scene where one of them goes into a grocery store to buy a lot of frozen turkeys, and comes out to the waiting car and takes off a bunch of latex which made him look more human. What was that about? I couldn't stand them. They were almost treated like comic relief instead of scary bad guys. I also felt they short-changed John and his transformation. Here's a guy who had no idea of the powers locked inside of him and within a few days he's got complete command of them? In the book there were extended training sequences where Henri told him about his past, and taught him how to control his powers. The big plot point that they disregarded was the deal with the numbers. In the book, they make it very clear that the Loriens can only be killed in a specific order. And, most importantly, if any two of the Loriens get together, that means the Mogadorians can then kill them in any order. I felt like that was a story line they could have easily added to the film yet for some reason, they chose not to. But it would have helped explain why the Loriens were always in different parts of the world, until Number Six crashed the party.
There were some pretty good action sequences, especially the big fight scene at the school. Lots of alien guns blazing, and crazy creatures battling each other. And with John and Number Six having powers, it made the fight even more exciting. The movie was also a little scarier than expected. There were a couple of jump-out-of-your seat moments that could scare smaller kids. The movie was pretty tame as far as relationships go. As I said earlier, John only takes off his shirt once for a short moment, and the scenes with him and Sarah involved only a couple of kisses. The movie moved along at a pretty good pace, but there were a couple of moments that felt a little long.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked I Am Number Four. I enjoyed the book and this kind of movie is right up my alley. It could have been better, and the treatment of the Mogadorians was really irritating, but all in all it's something I'd see again. And I'm looking forward to the sequel, even if I wish they turn this into a TV series.