‘I Am Number Four’ Review

Official Synopsis: There were nine who escaped. Three are dead. He is Number Four.

D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) helms an action-packed thriller about an extraordinary young man, John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), who is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant – Die Hard 4.0), he is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events—his first love (Dianna Agron), powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny.

Director: D.J Caruso

Starring: Alex Pettyfer (Strombreaker), Dianna Agron (Glee), Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and Timothy Olyphant (The Crazies)

Release date: 23rd February

Rating: 12A

This film starts and ends with a bang. A dramatic score and other-worldly action sequence sets us up for a sci-fi action adventure ride and before long we are plunged into the life of Number Four on planet Earth. As you might expect it ends with a SFX-filled battle, but in between these exciting bookends is a much slower paced- almost moody- film, with angsty soundtrack, punctuated by John Smith discovering his new found powers and the journey of the Mogadorians to track him down. It’s all enjoyable and “cool” enough but I had the feeling that it doesn’t quite know what movie it wants to be . Or, rather, it knows exactly what it wants to be (an action packed and epic Teen-Sci-fi-Drama) but doesn’t quite succeed at being all of these at once. I admire Caruso’s ambition, and think he is on to a good thing here, but I’m just not convinced he got the balance right.

Alex Pettyfer is perfectly cast. For a twenty year old Brit he is very convincing in his role as all-American high-schooler John Smith and his super-powered extra-terrestrial alter-ego Number Four. His good looks and impressive physique (if you like that sort of thing) make his popular jock-status credible, and when he moves to Paradise, Ohio , Pettyfer brings a sensitivity to his performance that makes his new-found outsider (loner, even) status equally believable. Dianna Agron (as Sarah Hart) isn’t given much to do here, and I never really felt a connection between Sarah and John. Teresa Palmer, all tight leather pants, motorcycles, and slow motion strutting, doesn’t have much screen time but I am pretty sure we will be seeing plenty more of her should the franchise take off. She has some great fight sequences and a brilliant one-liner (see below). Timothy Olyphant (as Henri), with his long greying hair and beard, is an unexpected treat and his connection with John is much more believable than that between John and Sarah. I also warmed to Callan McAuliffe’s Sam.

If you are familiar with D.J Caruso’s recent work you can’t help but notice the reoccurring theme of surveillance. For example, in Disturbia, Shia LaBoeuf’s Kale Brecht, prohibited to leave his house, spies on his neighbours Rear Window-style, and, (being tagged himself) has his every move monitored by the police. In I Am Number Four our hero struggles to keep a low profile as he moves from town to town and mentor Henri is regularly sweeping the internet for photos which may have made their way online – innocent pictures or video footage taken by friends or at school football games and posted on social networking sites– or sent to UFO websites as evidence of paranormal activity. Sarah has a passion for taking (sometimes unflattering) photographs of people without they’re knowing and posting them to her blog, much to the chagrin of the school staff. And, interestingly, the biggest piece of product placement in this film, John’s iPhone, comes across as a burden; another form of technology used to track us down and keep tabs – Henri over protectively calling John every hour on the hour to make sure he’s safe.

I definitely think I Am Number Four misses a trick or two with the teen-romance, and suffers as a result. I’m sure young girls everywhere will fall in love with the drop-dead-gorgeous Number Four/John (you know, if that’s your thing) but not with John and Sarah as a couple. They aren’t an epic romance (à la Bella and Edward) but neither is there any good old fashioned chemistry between them – they seem instead purely symbolic of the sort of “life” that John is missing out on. I am not sure it even needed a romantic thread but if you’re going to have one I would prefer it to be more interesting/credible.

I would imagine that most, if not all, of the inconsistencies of pace and tone are due to the source material on which the film draws. If Caruso had taken the basic premise of The Nine and John Smith, I Am Number Four would perhaps tick all the boxes. Interestingly, the second book is still being written and Caruso has said that the films are beginning to influence the books so perhaps with his input the next few films (if they materialise) will be much stronger.

I cannot however blame the book for the design of the Mogadorians. Apparently in the novel they are simply described as being “tall”, and not covered in head tattoos. I’m not a fan of this sort of tattoo in film as I think they always look like face-paints and I find it distracting. Despite this the main Mogadorian, played by Kevin Durand (LOST’s Sergeant Keamy), is actually quite scary (and also quite funny) partly due to his his creepy sense of humour and revolting teeth.

Rating

3.5/5-  A fun, ambitious, but sometimes uneven, mixture of Sc-Fi, action and drama. I predict, and hope for, better things to come from this franchise.

Best line

“Red Bull is for pussies”.

 

Don’t forget to check out the press conference by clicking HERE.

 

Alexis Jayne Defoe.

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