Ah, the science fiction flick. Ever since Méliès pointed his lens to A Trip to the Moon, filmmakers have crafted tales of space ships and weird creatures. While some like Forbidden Planet and E.T. are classic bits of movie history, many more have been relegated to the old style ‘B’ picture notation. I am Number Four falls in the latter category.
The story starts with promise. It is a dark and stormy night and a young man is awoken from sleep. A monster attacks and kills an older man. Then the chase through the woods in on which doesn’t end well for our young person. So much for the set-up.
We find through exposition that a group of aliens from the planet Lorien have been hidden on Earth. Though each has a guardian, the ones to be protected are “the nine.” They are the last of their species and the nine all have special powers that have not been fully activated. An invading species, the Mogadorian, have rid the galaxy of the Loriens except for all those hidden on Earth. The Mogadorian are hunting down Lorien, one by one and actor Alex Pettyfer is Number Four.
After running away from the Mogadorian in Florida, Number Four and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) move to Paradise, Ohio. Number Four takes on the nom de plume of John Smith and tries to blend into high school. Though he tries, he can’t keep his eyes of Sarah (Dianna Agron), a teen photographer who should be in front of the camera. As he begins to befriend her, he finds out that she has a tough football playing ex-boyfriend named Mark (Jake Abel), who doesn’t take too kindly to a stranger ‘messing with his woman’. He also meets a science geek kid named Sam (Callan McAuliffe) who has a missing father. It seems that the father was convinced that UFOs were here and aliens were living among the human population.
The story is of a young extra-terrestrial falling in star-crossed love with his Juliet. If one were to pitch this film in Hollywood, you’d just call it Alien Twilight.
Director D. J. Caruso has made some interesting films with Disturbia and Eagle Eyeand here he delivers much of the same. There is some great second unit work, with massive explosions and CGI beasts roaming. It just takes a very long time to get there. After the cool death sequence of Number 3 and the opening in Florida (lifted from Jaws), we get brought down in the muck of teen angst. With all the moon-eyed stares and subtle glances, I am Number Four starts to feel like a Disney version of a soap opera. To quote Elvis, “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”
One has to give special notes to the special effects crew and especially the make-up artists. The Mogadorian are a cross between bad-ass bikers and extras from The Matrix. With side-gills next to the nose, they somehow come across as super menacing without being comic. These villains travel across the country looking for Number Four with a trailer that has something big and scary inside. It is a fun group of bad guys.
Alex Pettyfer delivers an interesting performance as Number Four. At times he just seems in awe of his super-powers as he grows from a boy to a man. All of his gifts come from his glowing hands, which come alive while he is in school. Alex does deal with both the action and romance aspect of the character without looking too silly.
The same cannot be said for Dianna Agron. Though she is great on the TV show Glee, she doesn’t deliver much with the character of Sarah. At times she comes across as distracted, as if she’s just waiting to deliver her lines so she can get off camera and do something else. There is no meat in her reading of the part, no burn in delivering the lines.
Much better was Teresa Palmer as Number Six. She has the ability to move so quickly that she is almost a ghost. Flying through the air, she’s a kick-ass Lorien lady who takes no prisoners and leaves nothing but destruction in her wake. The film needed much more of her throwing punches and fighting bad guys.
One has to seriously doubt that Twilight magic will happen with I am Number Four, the cast and the elements are just not the same. But, just to make sure, this film is so setup to be the opening volley of a series of sequels. Only the box office will determine that fate.