"I Am Number Four" Delivers Aliens, Rocks And Lomography
(USA, 2011, 110 mins)
This all-action, explosion spectacular looks promising from the long-drawn marketing campaign. And what’s not to like? With director D.J. Caruso (“Eagle Eye,” “Disturbia”) at the helm and Michael Bay (“Transformers”) as producer, nerd boys and girls around the world may consider this film to be the next best thing.
Unfortunately, they may find themselves a little disappointed. Correction – very disappointed. And while the dashingly handsome leading man Alex Pettyfer may appear to be replacing Shia LaBeouf as Caruso and Bay’s muse, Shia-ites (Shiantologists) need not fear as Pettyfer fails to deliver the charm and charisma that makes LaBeouf’s characters so watchable.
Pettyfer is “Number Four,” one of nine aliens in hiding on Earth from evil alien predators. Protected by a guardian (Timothy Olyphant), “Number Four” aka John Smith, is forced to adopt a new identity yet again when his alien powers manifest in front of his high school friends.
With a new name, new school and newly dyed blond locks (apparently a master of disguise), John promptly meets Sarah (Dianna Agron), nerdboy extraordinaire Sam (Callan McAuliffe) and throw in a dog, a jealous ex-boyfriend and a “badass” fellow alien-in-hiding (Teresa Palmer), and you have a story, or at least according to the writers of this sub-par script.
Which brings us to the writers. Alfred Gough and Miles Millar take a big leap from writing, producing and directing the CW’s “Smallville” to developing the script for “I Am Number Four” from the Pittacus Lore novels, but sadly, their talents may be better suited to the small screen.
When asked about the stylistic challenges that the duo faced when adapting the novels, Gough identified the character of Sarah as one of their biggest changes.
Hipsters (not that any hipsters will see this film) will undoubtedly be irritated with the decision to make lomography the hobby of choice to make Sarah ‘unique.” Sarah’s passion for her hobby is just short of the pretentious camera-wielding idiot chasing plastic bags in "American Beauty." At one point in the midst of chaos, she drags John off to look at photos in a darkroom, for reasons unknown and unconvincing.
Unfortunately, Sarah is anything but unique, rather she is annoyingly mundane. Despite Pettyfer and Agron’s off-screen romance, the chemistry between them on screen is lackluster, along with their performances. The distinct lack of dialogue given to John becomes obvious, but Gough said this was a studio decision.
“Dreamworks took dialogue away from John because he was on the run and very reticient,” said Gough. “John eventually became a little “James Dean” broody.”
While Olyphant, McAuliffe and Teresa Palmer bring a little more spunk to their characters, Pettyfer and Agron seem out of their depth and misplaced within the “moderate budget” of the film (more than $60 million according to Gough and Millar).
The soundtrack perhaps redeems the film marginally. Kings of Leon, Temper Trap, The XX, Adele and The Black Keys are all featured in key scenes, a harrowed attempt at trying to draw in the targeted demographic.
For fans of Caruso’s last two films, it was wishful thinking to hope this film would deliver some substance. However, the film is certainly poised for a franchise.
“They won the battle, but the war is still out there,” said Millar. “You want to have a satisfying end to the movie, but leave it open to sequels.”
If only the cast acted as good as they looked, this movie may have had potential to captivate, but instead, all we’re left with is an intensely brooding teenager and some moderately sized explosions.