I Am Number Four is an adaptation of the popular young adult novel of the same name. It concerns Number Four (Alex 'Stormbreaker' Pettyfer), the fourth in a line of aliens that have fled their planet, taking refuge on Earth. The bad guys they are fleeing arrive on Earth to finish them off. They kill the first three aliens, imaginatively named Number One, Two and Three, and start on their hunt for Number Four. This leads Four to flee with his guardian (Timothy Olyphant) and settle in Paradise (sigh), Ohio.
Sigh. This film. There are three things I liked about this film:
- Timothy Olyphant. Like most things that Timothy stars in, he's the shining light. He might have starred in the god-awful Hitman adaptation, but his role in The Girl Next Door and his villainous turn in Die Hard 4.0 have made him a favourite of mine. However, he is pushed to the sidelines for most of the film, maintaining a 'disapproving father figure' status throughout. A waste of good talent, he deserves better;
- Number Six. Played by Australian actress Teresa Palmer, she only appears fleetingly throughout the film, making a worthwhile impact in the final act. Her enthusiasm and attitude is a refreshing change to the dull and boring 'acting' given to us by the two leads. Again, not used well.
- The first three minutes. Similar to last year's Solomon Kane, if the rest of the film was like the first 180 seconds, it would have been a pretty good film. The opening depicts Number Three's death at the hands of the Big Bads and their gigantic monster-alien-killing-machine-pet thing, and is an exhilarating and shocking chase sequence through an unnamed jungle at night! Since nothing in the film matches up to the attention-grabbing introduction, the film feels like it's steadily going downhill throughout.
The acting is atrocious, with Pettyfer giving Keanu and Nic Cage a run for their money in the Wooden Actor Awards, and the storyline is incredibly trite, contrived and similar to many other superior sources, for example, the villains being cheap replicas of the vampires from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Speaking of which, I Am Number Four's storyline is essentially the trials of refugee aliens on Earth, evading their enemies whilst coming to terms with the normal human experiences of an average American teenager. Sounds familiar? It should to any fans of the late-90s/early-00s U.S. TV series, Roswell High/Roswell (jumping point for a teenage Katherine Heigl) as it is essentially the same basic plot.
Perhaps I am just too critical and demanding of a film that is aimed at a younger audience. However, there are certain scenes that are a bit too graphic, such as the film's dental torture scenes (yes, dental torture in a 12A rated film) or the film's special effects-laden fight scenes, which suggest it's trying to encorporate the older audiences too. The film tries to balance the two sides of the film equally, with the 'alien at high school' plot taking slight priority over the 'bad guys are coming to kill you' storyline. This leads to an incredibly predictable series of events including the stereotypical American high-school party and town fair, complete with ferris wheel and ghost train. Meanwhile, we cut to fanged baddies laughing maniacally whilst drilling into people's mouths. Ridiculously juxtaposed storylines.
All in all, I believe Roger Ebert got it right by describing I Am Number Four as 'shameless and unnecessary', as it has just become another stale and uninteresting entry into the already-diluted pool of adaptation and remakes polluting the film industry. Although, on a lighter side, before I watched this film, I was struggling for my Worst Film of the Year contender. Now I have a firm bookend that I'm sure will still be there come December.
Rating - 2/10