FIRST LOOK: ‘I Am Number Four’ is electrifying, flashy, and fun—but third-rate storytelling

Alex Pettyfer (Pictured with Dianna Agron) plays an alien teen escaping predestined death in a film adaptation of the sci-fi/fantasy novel 'I Am Number Four.' (credit: DreamWorks)

I had absolutely no intention of seeing I Am Number Four when I first saw the trailer for it before seeing True Grit, despite one of my favorite celebrities, Dianna Agron, co-starring in it. From the preview, the film seemed all sloppy style with loud and obnoxious sound and no substance (Hey, it’s a Michael Bay production after all). However, a special advance screening of the movie followed the San Bruno Hot Topic meet-and-greet with Agron and Alex Pettyfer. FREE MOVIES!! How could anyone say ‘no’ to that? Certainly not me.

I Am Number Four combines exciting sci-fi action with typical high school drama and a love story. Based on the novel by Pittacus Lore (Jobie Hughes and James Frey), director D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) helps create a lukewarmly pleasing—but not fully engaging—adolescent narrative about the origins of a young man who is not like his peers and the dangers he faces not only from them, but a whole other species.

The boy who identifies himself only as John Smith (Pettyfer) is from a planet called Lorien, hiding on Earth from the evil Mogadorians, who are threatening to kill the last of his people. There are nine of these remaining children from Lorien and they can only be killed in sequence by the number they are given—three have already been killed, and John is Number Four. Number Four and his life-long guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant)—who must always be on the run and keep their identities secret out of fear that the Mogadorians will find them—move to Paradise, Ohio following Number Three’s death, and it is here that Number Four makes new and profound discoveries about himself and life on Earth. Not only has his powers fully developed, but he finds his first love in a photographer named Sarah (Agron), a new friend in a fellow outcast named Sam (Callan McAuliffe), and eventually, a new cohort (Teresa Palmer). But between the high school drama and more importantly, the Mogadorians tracking him down, Number Four’s safety and happiness in the place he wants to call home is in peril. Mark Abel and Kevin Durand co-star as adversaries.

To be fair, I have never read the original novel, nor do I have any intention to, so I can’t make the call if the film stayed true to the book. But I will say that for quite a fascinating story, the execution of it on-screen felt empty and uneven. Most scenes felt either too rushed or too slow. It was personally also difficult to develop any care or sympathy for most of the characters—they were either dull or ruthless to feel any positive emotion for—except for misunderstood and nerdy Sam, Palmer’s character (Who was severely underdeveloped), and Number Four’s dog (Who actually has quite a huge role, believe or not). Additionally, some of the special effects and monstrosities looked very campy and tacky. You’d have to see it to believe it, or at least judge for yourself.

But for what it’s worth, if you can appreciate an action thriller targeted toward younger audiences, I Am Number Four makes for a fun cinematic experience. The cast is likable enough, there are many light-hearted moments and lines of dialogue to make you chuckle, and all the explosions are quite the sights. Plus, the haunted hayride scene will make you feel like you’re in the actual ride with the characters. Although it probably won’t warrant multiple viewings, taking the chance to see it once should be a nice escape from reality for some people.

I wasn’t that impressed, but the movie somewhat exceeded my even lower expectations. With a cast of young breakout stars, an element of supernatural fantasy about and aimed at the high school crowd, and some breathtaking FX-laden sequences (For better or worse), I Am Number Four does have the makings of a blockbuster. But whether it is well-received in the box office and by critics remains as mysterious as the film’s plot holes.

OVERALL SCORE: 6.5/10

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3 responses to “FIRST LOOK: ‘I Am Number Four’ is electrifying, flashy, and fun—but third-rate storytelling

  1. Pingback: FIRST LOOK: ‘Beastly’ is for the teenies, but a captivating new take on the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale for all « Karen On…·

  2. Do you proofread the things you write? I won’t bother pointing out all of the flaws, but it’s hilarious that you chastise a film for being dull, underdeveloped, full of plot holes, and plenty of other equally insulting adjectives and your review is guilty of the same things. If you can’t figure out what i’m referring to then ask me and I might be willing to assist you.

    • Hi Mitch,
      Thank you for taking the time to read this post and for feeling so strongly enough to comment. I really appreciate it. I do proofread my work to the best of my ability, though this was written last year when I was a wee bit younger.

      I’m sorry that you feel that the adjectives I used were insulting. I feel like my review was fair. If you read the headline, I actually point out all the good things about it and I do that throughout the review too. My intention wasn’t to bash the film, but to criticize it constructively as I do with all movies, albums, concerts, plays, etc.

      I just keep a blog. I’m dabbling in the media field, but I also write as a fan. I don’t get paid to do this, but I know the writers of the film (And the book) made millions off this so they’re beneficiaries anyway no matter what I say. ;)

      Again, thank you for your thoughtful comment. Have a wonderful evening!

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