When I saw the trailer for I Am Number Four, I was hooked immediately. It reeled me in with the hint of suspense and a promise of great special effects. Was this guy a mutant like the X-Men, does he have “super powers,” what’s going on? I was intrigued by the little I knew of the plot: someone or something is hunting this kid and those like him. Three have been killed already, and he is number four. Break out the popcorn, I’m ready.
Number Four (played by gorgeous newcomer Alex Pettyfer) is “John,” a young man from another planet who travels from city to city with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant, A Perfect Getaway) as they dodge evil aliens known as “Mogadorians.” The Mogadorians have driven them from their home planet of Lorien and destroyed their people. The movie’s strength is not in the back-story, which is muddled and somewhat unoriginal. That’s ok, I’m not nitpicking; but the concept of evil aliens who have destroyed an entire people and/or home planet is nothing new, whether it’s been done in Transformers or Superman. Perhaps I’d appreciate the back-story more if I’d been able to read the book on which the movie is based, because something felt lost in the adaptation. The writers seemed to be making it up as they went along, maybe because they spilled out the details all at once and it just seemed contrived. Luckily for them, what happens in the present is more important than what happened in our characters’ past. The movie opens with John and Henri having to leave town after John’s secret identity is revealed. His supernatural abilities include otherworldly agility, strength, and speed. He also seems to have a blue light force within, somewhat reminiscent of Gambit from X-Men. Every time one of his nine remaining brethren is killed he knows intuitively, and that means he is one step closer to being killed himself, as they are being hunted in order. When another Lorien is killed, a symbol becomes painfully etched on his leg, one for each death. When he gets his third brand, he knows that Number Three is dead, and since the secret is out that John isn’t “normal,” he and Henri must find a new town and new identities. They arrive in the ironically named town ofParadise,Ohio and try to blend in without raising any suspicion. Meanwhile, the Mogadorians are tracking their scent and will not rest until the six remaining Loriens have been eliminated.
When they settle in their new town, things are somewhat predictable, from a cinematic standpoint. John is the proverbial fish out of water, The New Kid. Then there is The Bully, who of course has beef with John because of The Girl, a popular and pretty blonde named Sarah. This all looks familiar, but again – I don’t mind because Number Four is endearing and unassuming and I’m rooting for him. Actress Dianna Agron (Glee) ably portrays Sarah as a calming new presence in John’s life, providing respite from the danger and solitude he usually deals with. Making matters more interesting is the fact that another from Lorien is following him, along with the Mogadorians. Eventually this stranger meets up with John, revealing that she is Number Six. Her powers are similar to John’s, but also different. John has powers of tele-kinesis, while Number Six can resist flame, among other things. Together they have a final showdown against the Mogadorians, as they try to save not only the residents ofParadise, but all of humanity.
I could see how some would dislike this movie. There are better movies of this same type that have been done before; but I was entertained throughout, and I didn’t have many expectations beyond that. Pettyfer in this role reminded me of Hayden Christensen’s turn in Jumper, which was similarly flawed but entertaining. I Am Number Four set audiences up nicely for a sequel, and I enjoyed the special effects and action sequences as Number Four and Number Six battled it out. If you like this genre, you won’t be disappointed. I give it a solid B.
This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.