I Am Number Four
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S been widely suggested that DJ Caruso’s I Am Number Four could do for aliens what the Twilight series did for vampires… that is to say, make millions and kick off a franchise.
And it’s fair to say that there are plenty of similarities – as evidenced in its tale of teen outsiders bonding despite one of them being less than human.
But where Twilight is about brooding, angst and wet locations, I Am Number Four comes from the Michael Bay-Steven Spielberg school of filmmaking (both serve as producers) in that it balances teen themes with explosive spectacle.
But while watchable and likely to strike it’s biggest chord with the teens, I Am Number Four isn’t really offering anything that we haven’t seen before.
The plot concerns gifted alien Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) as he finds himself next in line for termination by the rival Mogadorians and forced to flee Florida in order to hide out in backwater USA – aka Paradise, Ohio – with the help of his protector (Timothy Olyphant).
Once there, however, he assumes the name John Smith and attempts to integrate himself into everyday society, befriending fellow college outsider Sam (Callan McAuliffe) and falling for similarly disaffected Sara (Glee‘s Dianna Agron).
Thus ensues the obligatory teen romance while John finds his identity and comes of age.
But with a Mogadorian warlord (Kevin Durand) on his tail and fellow alien Number Six (Teresa Palmer) keen to hook up it’s not long before John has to contemplate running again or preparing for an almighty smackdown.
Just as he did with Disturbia, director Caruso spends a generous amount of time to build character in the hope of making audiences genuinely care about what happens to them. And he achieves a certain amount of success given the effects heavy nature of the finale.
But it’s curiously with the supporting characters that I Am Number Four earns its stripes as Agron is an appealing romantic lead, McAuliffe a glib but charismatic bully victim and Olyphant a suitably steely but caring father figure.
Even Palmer makes her mark as the belatedly introduced Number Six, whose kick-ass bad girl attitude is worthy of further exploration.
Pettyfer is less assured, though, brooding when necessary and physically able but lacking a little in the charisma stakes. While Durand is a little too hammy as the main bad guy.
Caruso also loses the film’s momentum during the third act, opting for all out spectacle with little emotional resonance while trying desperately to set things in motion for the next film. Given that the novel hasn’t even been completed yet, it feels a little presumptuous, especially since there is much work to be done.
I Am Number Four is therefore a mixed affair. Good in places, laboured and generic in others but effective enough to appeal to its core teen audience.
Whether it has the clout or breakout appeal of the franchises it is seeking to emulate is a different matter entirely and it remains to be seen whether this will prompt further movies.
Running time: 105mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 20, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Alex Pettyfer interview
- Teresa Palmer interview
- I Am Number Four Photo Gallery
- London fan screening in pictures