I AM NUMBER FOUR
Review by Gordon Justesen
Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin
Director: D.J. Caruso
Audio DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: May 24, 2011
“Got any other legacies I should know about?”
I went into I Am Number Four knowing only a few things about it, but they were enough to convince me that it would make for an intriguing piece of entertainment. I knew that it was a sci-fi action flick based on a series of books with a devoted fan base, that it was produced by Michael Bay (a name I trust when it comes to action, and that it co-stars a beautiful and very talented Aussie actress on the rise named Teresa Palmer, who had previously caught my attention in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. And to top it all off, it's directed by D.J. Caruso, whose track record isn't the best but he still earns high points for both Disturbia and especially his phenomenal directorial debut, The Salton Sea.
Unfortunately, what I didn't know was that the movie about to unfold before me was basically nothing more than a Twilight clone, with aliens being substituted for vampires. And to make matters worse, it's just as bland and unengaging than the first two Twilight movies. So much so that even a most impressive action packed final act isn't able to make up for the incredibly lackluster series of scenes which precedes it.
The central story involves a race of aliens, who appear as normal human beings. They have come to Earth to elude their enemy, an evil alien race known as the Magadorians. Though they've been hiding out separately throughout the planet, their enemy has manged to track down and slaughter three of them.
We are then introduced to the hero of the story, known simply as Number Four (Alex Pettyfer), who when we first see him is having a blast with friends at a sunny beach setting. He happens to harbor special powers, known as “legacies”, that he hasn't fully gotten a grasp on, and can be displayed at any given moment. That happens during the beach party after a girl invites him to take a dip in the water.
And because he nearly gave away his secret identity, it forces him and his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), to move to a different setting. They choose the quiet suburban town of Paradise, Ohio as their new stomping ground. All that Henri asks of his apprentice, whose new alias is John Smith, is to simply try and blend in with a normal adolescent society and try to control his powers from being displayed. Number Four/John is reluctant but does as he's told as he embarks on his first day at a new school.
It's at this point when the movie delves into Twilight territory with a sprinkling of every bad high school movie cliché in existence. From the moment when John flips of hoodie over his head while setting foot on the school ground, the movie is practically begging you to make comparisons to Edward Cullen to the point where it becomes simply grating. The Twilight comparisons are annoying enough, and the movie isn't helped at all by the weak dialogue, horrid clichés, and overall storytelling that are included for the next hour or so.
On his first day at school, John happens to run afoul of the school bully (so overwrought and off putting upon first glance that even Johnny from The Karate Kid is going, “really?”), befriend a classmate named Sam (Callan McAuliffe), the bully's frequent target, and become smitten at first sight with Sarah (Dianna Argon), the token “artistic” chick. And that's basically what this movie is for a good forty to forty five minutes, as John's following days school consists of dealing with school bully, sticking up for Sam and charming his way into a possible relationship with Sarah who, wouldn't you know it, used to date the school bully who, wouldn’t you know it, still has feelings for her. At this point, it's not so unreasonable to ask for a little sci-fi action and butt kicking, since that's what I thought I was going to be getting in the first place.
Meanwhile, an unbeknownst to our dull hunk of a hero, but the Magadorians are hot on his trail, having run across the aftermath of what he caused at the beach setting. That leads to another complaint I have, which is that these evil and hideous looking aliens aren't exactly the best experts in traveling incognito, as they investigate the beach during the daytime with no form of disguise whatsoever. And in a later scene, one of them is in a grocery store donning something of a facial disguise, though still unconvincing, but still parading around in intergalactic clothing that I would like to think would puzzle the people around them unless a sci-fi convention was taking place in this small, quiet Ohio town.
Or maybe I'm just thinking too much...
Topping the list of many problems with the movie is Alex Pettyfer in the title role. He brings absolutely no personality to the character, clearly indicating that he got the role because a Robert Pattinson type was needed to draw in teenage girls. The only difference is Pattinson has a hint of range based on what I've seen from him outside the role of Edward Cullen, while Pettyfer displays nothing but an off-putting sense of blandness, in addition to having absolutely no romantic chemistry with co-star Dianna Agron (from Glee).
Timothy Olyphant, always a most reliable actor, does the most he can with his role. Although he delivers his trademark wit in a number of scenes, he just seems to be slumming it a bit and wishing he was elsewhere. But at least it's not as horrific as his performance in Hitman.
The only redeeming factor in this movie, as far as cast and characters go, is the ravishing Teresa Palmer in the ass-kicking role of a Number Six, a huntress with special powers of her own who's in the same predicament as Number Four. She eventually meets up with him for a huge action-packed battle against the evil aliens, and carries an attitude (along with a series of one-liners) that help steal the movie. I love females that can kick large quantities of ass, and Palmer's character is one of the best in recent memory...but looking back, you can't help but wish the movie was all about her.
I Am Number Four, which appears to be the first in a series of films, had so much potential to be a worthy sci-fi action extravaganza, which is why it's so sad that it ended up being catered to the Twilight crazed teenage market. The fact that Ms. Palmer's presence and the impressive final half hour can't save it is a huge indicator of just how astonishingly weak the rest of the material is. There's far too many better sci-fi action flicks out there to enjoy.
Put a big budget sci-fi release in high definition, and you're sure to get out of this world results. Such is the case with this Blu-ray release from Touchstone/Buena Vista, which is nothing but an eye-gazing and fantastically rendered presentation right from the opening frame. The visual effects look nothing less than extraordinary, of course, and the colors fully enhance every single set piece, from the darkened jungle setting of the movie's opening to the forest greens of the Ohio suburbs. Clarity is consistent throughout the movie, resulting in a superb offering that only Blu-ray can manage.
The DTS HD mix is very jolting right from the very beginning. Although the film itself is dull, the sound mix is never without anything to work with. Again, the visual effects work provides many moments of striking lossless audio. Music playback is also extremely well handled. Dialogue delivery is succinct and clear from beginning to end, and the action infused climax will definitely rock the speakers on your sound system.
Among the Blu-ray features are 18 minutes worth of Deleted Scenes (including a scene with Karen Allen as the estranged mother of the boy John befriends at school), which include an optional introduction from director D.J. Caruso. Also included is a brief but fun featurette titled “Becoming Number Six”, which focuses on actress Teresa Palmer's intense preparation for her physically demanding role. (Again, the movie should've been about HER!). Rounding out the extras is a Blooper reel.
This three disc combo pack also includes a DVD version of the movie and a third disc containing a downloadable Digital Copy version for your computer/portable device.
What I thought was going to be extremely fulfilling as far as sci-fi action goes turned out to be one of the more painfully mediocre films the genre has offered in quite some time. I Am Number Four takes an intriguing idea and proceeds to go in too many wrong directions with it. I love Teresa Palmer and dug the final action bits, but they weren't enough to compensate for the bad writing, bad acting and painful clichés that plague the rest of the movie.