Once you learn the difference between the Mogadorians and the Loriens, I Am Number Four is essentially “Dawson’s Creek” with an aliens-from-outerspace storyline complete with an indie-pop soundtrack Dawson would be proud of. It’s really no surprise the writing team is made up of two gents behind the “Smallville” TV show and a one-time screenwriter for the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series as it incorporates both alien superpowers and a crew of characters that turn to dust when killed. However, while comparing a feature film to a group of TV shows is usually some form of a complaint, I have to admit, like most any intriguing TV series, I want to see what happens next.
In I Am Number Four English actor, Alex Pettyfer stars as John Smith, whom we learn very quickly is an alien. John is also one of the last of his kind, trying to survive on Earth as a rival alien species is hunting him and his fellow survivors in hopes of complete extinction of his species. Such a lifestyle doesn’t lend itself well to making friends as John and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) are often forced to move from place to place. The latest move sends them to a small town in Ohio where John meets Sarah (“Glee” star Dianna Agron), his one true love, a description you’ll find is quite literal.
Of course, with happiness in movies must come conflict and the evil Mogadorians have tracked John and Henri to their new home. At the same time John is going through alien puberty as his powers are coming into existence and he can’t control the warming sensation emanating from his hands. But he only has a small amount of time to figure things out, because the Mogs are getting closer and he’s next on their list.
In the lead roles, Pettyfer and Agron are satisfactory, doing no better than you’d expect for a film that just as easily could be a part of NBC’s primetime line-up. The more entertaining characters, however, come by way of the supporting cast including Callan McAuliffe (Flipped), Kevin Durand (“Lost”) and Teresa Palmer (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).
McAuliffe gets some solid one-liners playing Sam, the school science nerd whom John befriends as they both run into trouble with Mark (Jake Abel), the school bully and a preposterously contrived character if there ever was one.
On the extra terrestrial side, Durand and Palmer are the highlights. Durand continues his ability to convincingly play meathead supporting characters (his previous role being Little John in Robin Hood). Here he plays one of the club-footed, worker bee Mogadorians. Made up with gill-like nostrils on each side of his nose and piranha-like teeth, the script actually allows him to bring a bit of levity to the character I didn’t expect, but was glad was included. Palmer is on the other side of the playing field as one of the last Loriens, trying to survive and ultimately fights side-by-side with John in an entertaining, CG-filled finale.
Director D.J. Caruso’s previous films have done very little to entertain me, including Disturbia, Two for the Money and Eagle Eye. His films traditionally look good, and I Am Number Four is no exception, but he always seems to attract films with big ideas and minimal payoff. Fortunately, with I Am Number Four the story, while big in scope, is simplified to a level Caruso can manage.
I Am Number Four could easily be compared to any number of mediocre staples of pop culture. The film isn’t without ridiculous scenes and mediocre performances, but it has a solid point of intrigue and never takes itself too seriously. The dialogue isn’t overly cheesy and there are some decent special effects, although there are also some that are downright awful such as Palmer’s fiery entrance.
Because I had a good time with it and I want to see what happens next, I’m going to stay clear of bashing the film too much. The question is whether I’ll have to pick up the second book in the series when it hits shelves in August, or if this one is going to make enough at the box-office for the sequel to get a greenlight. With a budget rumored to be upwards of $60 million it could be hard for this flick to make enough money for us to see any more of the story on the big screen, but here’s to hoping.