Movie review: 'I Am Number Four'
By Sean O'Connell
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Sorry "I Am Number Four," but I Am Not Impressed.
Let me give you four reasons why:
* The mythology adapted from Pittacus Lore's young-adult science-fiction novel comes across as scatterbrained and silly on screen.
* Outside of a combative finale set in and around a high school, the computer-generated special effects are generic and disappointing.
* The tattooed and fanged villains resemble rejects from the critically acclaimed but long-deceased "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series.
* The young "Four" cast appears to have been plucked from an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue - which isn't an issue until you realize that the characters they're playing are about as thin as the pages in that Gen-Y fashion Bible.
Still want to try it, moviegoer? Let me help dissuade you.
Unoriginal and woefully half-baked, "Number Four" plays out as such. Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) is a ruggedly handsome alien whose home planet, Lorien, was destroyed by the Mogadorians, an evil race of extraterrestrial hit men sporting ankle-length trench coats and jet-black tattoos on their shaved heads. Picture the offspring of Count Dracula and Neo from "The Matrix," and you're halfway there.
Four is one of nine Legacy children, Lorien natives who were sent to Earth to escape their planet's destruction (even though legend claims that the nine possess enough power to, you know, vanquish the Mogadorians). Hoping to kill before they get killed, the Mogadorians have traveled to our planet, successfully subtracting Numbers One through Three from the equation. Four knows he's next, so his Lorien guardian, Henri (a paycheck-collecting Timothy Olyphant), orders him to disappear until his latent powers fully manifest. He's told to avoid contact with humans, remain in hiding and, above all else, stay off the Internet. Because, we must assume, the Mogadorians love Facebook and Twitter.
And how does Four choose to stay invisible? By enrolling in his neighborhood high school, of course! Nothing says "stay off the grid" quite like romancing the town's cutest babe (Dianna Agron), or sticking up for the school's nerdiest student (Callan McAuliffe) when he's bullied by the arrogant varsity quarterback (Jake Abel).
"Number Four" suffers from multiple-personality disorder. Sometimes it wants to be "Dawson's Creek." Other times it aspires to be "The X-Files" or "Fringe." Director D.J. Caruso married film noir with teen angst in 2007's "Disturbia," so you can understand why Dreamworks studio execs would gamble on the filmmaker combining a credible, teen-sensitive drama with a far-fetched science-fiction premise. But he can't. "Number Four" samples heavily from John Hughes and Ray Bradbury, but all attempts at bridging their vastly different worlds fail miserably.
The screenplay, credited to three writers, does Caruso no favors. The convoluted science-fiction soap opera makes up new rules as it stumbles along (largely to explain away plot holes), then ignores the rules it previously established (largely to cover up even bigger plot holes). Details are revealed, then overlooked. Henri carries around a box that, we're told, houses a secret handed down by Four's deceased father. But the box is never opened, and nothing comes of what's inside. "Number Four" also never bothers to answer why on earth (or on Lorien, for that matter) Four needs to take classes if he's on the run. Is he planning to get his degree? Enter the workforce?
Even if "Four" solved those riddles, there's still no getting around the fact that its hero is pretty lame. His glowing hands have the power to light up a dark room. Wow. In one pivotal scene, he's able to jump-start a dead car battery by pointing his palm at the dashboard. Are you excited yet? Number Four's really more of a battery than a super-charged savior.
If you really want to see proper treatment of similar material, save your cash until Matthew Vaughn's anticipated prequel, "X-Men: First Class," opens in June. Because I'm willing to wager the price of admission that it's 10 times better than "Number Four."
Contains intense sequences of violence and action, as well as objectionable language.