Saturday, February 19, 2011
I Am Number Four
It is easy to see that I Am Number Four is based on a best-selling young adult science fiction novel, the first in a proposed series. Its main characters are teenagers. Its setting is the typical small-town public high school replete with outcasts, nerds, and bullies. Its main character, John Smith (very handsome Alex Pettyfer), has paranormal powers, attracts the pretty outsider girl, and saves her from bullies, just like Edward in Twilight. Turns out that John Smith is a Lorien on the lam, one of nine such Loriens endowed with Legacies (special powers), pursued by nasty aliens called Mogadorians, who look like a cross between a piranha and Gary Busey and are determined to kill all the Loriens who stand in the way of their intergalactic conquests – I think. Like most teenage aliens on the run, John wants a normal life, so against the paranoid wishes of his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), he picks the easiest way to a normal life: he enrolls in a high school in Paradise, Ohio.
What follows is stock Disney Channel teen melodrama. John captures the attention of Sarah (Dianna Agron), the wholesome, blonde-haired girl who is into photography. This makes jealous the resident bully, Mark (Jake Abel), and John makes things worse for himself when he defends the persecuted nerd, Sam (Callan McAuliffe), who believes in all things extraterrestrial. With all the cyber bullying that goes on, John’s face is plastered all over the Internet, and the Mogadorians drive in for the kill, towing a horse trailer containing twin CGI monsters that moved too quickly for me to describe. In the final battle, John and friends are saved by a Beagle that turns into a mace-tailed creature and a cute Aussie chick, who drives a Bugati, Hollywood’s ubiquitous motorcycle of the moment. She turns out to be Number 6. Ooh, aah! (Where the fuck is number 5?) And, you guessed it, John, 6, and Sam journey on, keeping ahead of the Mogadorians as they search for the rest of the Loriens, thereby setting us up for the sequel.
Now, I’m a sucker for any halfway decent sci-fi movie, but I’m insulted by a movie that plays like an episode from a Disney Channel television series. The pace is slow, the urgency is smothered by stock high school scenes, and the supposedly sinister Mogadorians are innocuous. I have to say I enjoyed the faithful Beagle who turns into a cross between a lynx and an ankylosaurus, but there’s no suspense here and no sense of alien awe in connection with John’s discovery of his powers. Not one framed image stands out to be remembered. The only thing that this film elicits is an intensified disdain for movies that are part of a series, movies based on television shows, and movies like this one – anything that threatens to turn movies into television shows, a thing I fear more than an alien invasion.