Theatrical Review: I AM NUMBER FOUR

by: J.C. De Leon
February 18th, 2011

Rating: 3/5

Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon, Jobie Hughes, James Frey
Director: D.J. Caruso
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Kevin Durand, Dianna Agron
Studio: Dreamworks Pictures

The first film to come out of the Full Fathom Five publishing fiction factory from James Frey may seem familiar to some viewers. The film itself plays out like an extended episode of Smallville, and certain elements of I AM NUMBER FOUR have some gratitude to lend towards those younger viewers who may just be discovering comic books and superheroes like Superman, or those viewers who are sometimes endearingly called "Twihards."

As a sci-fi action film, I AM NUMBER FOUR definitely has a lot going for it, and a lot going against it. The first two acts are almost unbearable and reek of bad dialogue and extremely cheesy subplots, but in the end, as a sci-fi actioner looking to possibly jumpstart a franchise, it could very well win some people over.

The film opens inside space before we're treated to a rather elaborate camera shot that zooms in on Earth from space, all the way into a secluded house in a tree from a jungle. There, a teenager is suddenly awakened and a man grabs a long knife with a shiny blue rock on bottom of the handle. The teen is suddenly attacked by a large monster of some sort before he is captured and killed by a group of aliens who appear to be a cross between the creatures from DARK CITY and ALIEN NATION. Cut to an oceanside town in California where some happy-go-lucky teenagers are out for a ride on jet skis. When John (Alex Pettyfur) is summoned to the water for some late night flirtation by a buxom blonde, he suddenly experiences shooting pains in his leg and a brightly lit scar appears on his leg. Now that he's outed as a freak without any explanation to anyone, he and his father skip town.

It is after this mysterious start that we are treated to a voiceover, where it explained that John is actually an alien from the planet Lorien, and his "father" is actually his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant). John is one of nine survivors from Lorien and each survivor is accompanied by a guardian whose only job is to protect the survivors at any cost. John has gotten three scars on his leg, meaning he is number four, and he is next to be targeted by the Mogadorians. This involves a lot of traveling around the world and not getting close to people. This is something that is difficult for the now-acclimated teenager that is John.

When they finally settle in Paradise, Ohio, John meets Sarah (Dianna Agron) and Sam. Sarah is a beautiful girl who has an affinity for all things photography and can't wait to get out of Paradise. Sam is the alien-obsessed nerd who gets picked on at school and is patiently waiting for his purpose in life while the jocks get the best four years of their life out of the way. It is up to John to maintain anonymity while the Mogadorians are searching for him and the remaining six survivors. But now John must face a new obstacle, he is obtaining his "legacies," what we humans often call powers in superheroes.

This is where viewers who are familiar with all things Smallville will begin to sense familiarity. Alfred Gough and Miles Millar have combined to write every episode of Smallville, no small feat for most television shows that typically last anywhere from three to five seasons. Smallville has been on for ten seasons now, so this is obviously not new territory for the screenwriters and it is almost painfully obvious in the dialogue and sudden twisty plot. Fans of Smallville and other CW shows will no doubt be pleasantly surprised to see elements of things they are familiar with on the big screen, but it doesn't often translate well. The dialogue is at times hilariously bad and makes you wonder if a seasoned character actor like Timothy Olyphant is in on the joke, knowing he's in a terribly written film. It comes through in his performance, but if this is your first exposure to him, it should be noted that he's got much better acting in him. There isn't anything ground-breaking coming from anyone else in the cast, but fans of the film who come away liking Alex Pettyfer will be glad to know he's got another film coming out in a few weeks, called BEASTLY. He appears to be one of the next "big thing" actors to come out of Hollywood, so we may be seeing a lot of him in the next few years.

It remains to be seen what will come of James Frey's fiction factory, but this first film out of the gate for them isn't a bad start. If his aim is to find the next Twilight series, he might have a ways to go before he reaches that level of commercial success from a novel. As a film though, this is most definitely an "early spring" movie where the overall quality is sometimes lacking, but on the whole it was an entertaining film with some really great action scenes and really cool elements that, if further explored in a sequel, could make for a really compelling franchise.

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