I Am Number Four is being billed as a high-octane superhero movie. It does eventually become one in the third act, but it happens long after anyone could possibly care about the story, characters, or anything else in this teenybopper cross-pollination of every superhero film ever made and the Twilight series. Poorly scripted and paced, not to mention asking the audience to make giant leaps in logic (even for a sci-fi flick) without asking a single question, all that can really be taken away from this experience is that the studio wants sequels – and lots of them.
Alex Pettyfer stars as John, an alien from the planet Mogador. He looks like a human and has a father figure guardian, Henri (Olyphant), but the two are constantly moving around the U.S. in an ongoing effort to avoid other Mogadorians who are trying to kill John. You see, John is the fourth of nine Mogadorians to escape to Earth. The first three have been killed, and he’s next. John takes up residence in rural Ohio and meets romantic interest Sarah (Agron) and the geeky Sam (McAuliffe). There are bullies at school, still-forming super-powers, and several showdowns with the evil Mogadorians (who are strangely butt-ugly).
If that synopsis seems rambling, then you’re set up perfectly for the film. With two acts of setup and generally uninteresting developments and one of ridiculous action, the movie spends entirely too much time with a stale romance, drama, too many subplots to count, and more drama. A heavy dose of superhero destruction is injected for the final twenty minutes, but it’s for naught as we’ve simply stopped caring in the stand-offish story and gaping plot holes. John’s entire back story is offered up in the form of frequent voice-overs, but where is Mogador? Why does he look human and other Mogadorians do not? Why is it so important for the evil Mogadorians to kill him? What is really at stake here?
Not helping matters are some very boring performances, starting with the wooden Alex Pettyfer. Injecting no life and acting like all of his powers are a giant pain in the ass, Pettyfer does nothing to differentiate John from any other sad sack superhero (see anyone from Fantastic Four) and doesn’t really even seem to be trying. Timothy Olyphant gets the lone handful of laughs, while Dianna Agron doesn’t seem to be ogling over John the way the teenage girls in the audience will be. A late appearance by Teresa Palmer, as Number Six, does add some energy to the climactic third act. She at least seems aware of the script’s badness as she delivers the film’s worst line, “Red Bull is for pussies.”
Little else is to be found in the way of fun in I Am Number Four. This is a whimper of a film simply trying to capitalize on the success of the Twilight formula and, well, every superhero movie under the sun. Seeing that there are still four “Numbers” left to be unearthed, director D.J. Caruso and his army of mediocre writers clearly have big plans for this “franchise.” All involved would be required to be significantly less lazy in order to make this material watchable.
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Length: 110 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.
Theatrical Release: February 18, 2011
Directed by: D.J. Caruso
Written by: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar & Marti Noxon. Based upon the novel by Jobie Hughes & James Frey.
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe