Thoughts on Films
by Max Bowen
Before we get cracking on this review of I Am Number Four, I want to touch briefly on just how difficult it is to effectively transform a novel into a movie. You’re talking some 300 pages condensed into a two-hour (at best) movie. That’s like creating a set of flash cards for the encyclopedia (this analogy may be lost on the Wikipedia generation). Something’s bound to get lost in the process.
Having not read the sci-fi book off of which this movie is based, I can’t say for certain what exactly was chucked out when Michael Bay decided to bring this story to the silver screen, but obviously something met the shredder. The book’s been receiving rave reviews and was a featured title from the Science Fiction Book Club, and this movie, well, it’s less than stellar. The film follows a young alien by the name of John (or Daniel, it’s a little fuzzy there, he’s also known as Number Four).
Number Four is played by Alex Pettyfer, a newcomer to the film world, and stars opposite Tim Olyphant, takes on the role of Henri, his warrior guardian. He gets offed about halfway through the film, which tells me he fudged the resume when applying for the job.
Number Four is one of a handful of youngsters who are the sole survivors of the plant Lorien, which was sanitized out by a bunch of Star Trek rejects called the Mogadorians. They dress like an emo band and are about as threatening as a Girl Scout troop. I can’t see these guys getting lunch money from the head of the chess club, let alone wiping out an entire civilization. But they do have big guns (courtesy of the yard sale for Men in Black) and some pretty gnarly alien flying squirrels under their command, so I suppose they have some threat value.
What the Mogs lack in menace they make up for in a hearty work ethic. Not content to let even one Lorienian keep a pulse, they follow the few survivors to Earth and take them out one at a time. I guess they’re also big on dramatic effect where they come from. These same survivors are nine children born with some intense powers, and it’s said that combined, they’ll be able to stop the Mogs once and for all, though to be frank, a crossing guard with a bad back could do that.
This is all beneath the notice of Number Four (or John or Daniel or whatever the hell his name is), who repeatedly tells us he just wants to be a normal kid—make friends, meet a girl, and get a weekend job cleaning tables at Denny’s. But all this glitz and glamour is to be denied him, as the Mogs soon catch his scent via some weird gill-like attachments on their faces. I’m as lost as you are, dear reader.
When he’s not decking the jocks on the football team with his crazy alien powers, John’s battling aliens from Planet Washout, making a few friends along the way, namely his love interest Sarah (who collects photos of everyone in her town of Paradise, Ohio, including a creepy gallery of our hero) and Sam, an X-Files aficionado who’s convinced his dad was abducted by aliens. My guess, he just wanted to get the hell away from his annoying son.
The movie has all the trappings of the made-for-TV films we see on Cartoon Network or the Disney Channel—thin plot and tons of action mainlined into the camera in the hopes we won’t notice it reads like it was written by a box turtle with a learning disorder. Since Michael Bay was the brains behind this little operation, we get more of both. The cast does an adequate job, but I don’t seem them being invited to an awards show for this one.
The saving grace of this film is the Action. The special effects were pretty cool, and the fight scenes fast-paced and well choreographed. Seeing Number 6 (a bad-ass Aussie blonde who follows the heroes, but waits until the last second to do anything useful) teleport around the Mogs, slitting their throats like Jack the Ripper or John blocking lasers with his hands was definitely the high point, and a good way to end the movie. At least until the sequel comes out.
Overall, I Am Number Four reads like yet another high-action attempt to launch the careers of the newest crop of tween superstars. It’s passable, and has already broken even on revenue, so it won’t go down in cinema history as a flop. But just barely.
Official Movie Site
Official Movie Site
I am Number Four IMDB