I Am Number Four – Twilight + Michael Bay + Smallville

Twilight + Michael Bay = I Am Number Four

This is the entertainment business, and you know, they try, but probably the most entertaining thing about this movie was how it came to be. There are a lot of great films based on books, and even more great books deserving film adaptations, but rather than take a literary success and bring it to the big screen, Dreamworks decided to buy the rights to, of all things, I Am Number Four. Oh yeah, and they purchased them a year before it was even published! All because James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, decided to start a fiction franchise that pumps out books and movies that could be marketed to teens.

Our early attempts at a tractor beam went through several preparations. Preparations A through G were a complete failure. But now, ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a working tractor beam, which we shall call... Preparation H.

But hey, why not? It was bound to be a success. A young man escapes a planet just as it’s being destroyed, ending up in a quaint town in Kansas Ohio where he attempts to live a normal life, only to find that he possesses superpowers, which really throw a kink in his small-town romance. That exact story has already worked out once — why not a second time? All you need to do is get the creators of Smallville to write the script, toss in some beautiful people and a few Michael Bay explosions, and you’ve got yourself a hit.

I Am Number Four opens on a scene of said beautiful people partying at the beach. Our hero, John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), is having a blast with all his buddies, and even gets invited to a sexy swim with the school hottie, where she delivers such lovely dialogue as “The big dipper. It’s my favorite.” I doubt she could even name another constellation, but that’s neither here nor there, because suddenly a scar on John’s leg emits a blinding light, signaling that Number Three is dead. For some reason that may or may not be explained in the book but certainly isn’t in the movie, the survivors of planet Lorien can only be killed in order, so it’s time for Number Four to go on the run. He and his protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant, whose last name always reminds me of Lord of the Rings), burn all their belongings and hit the road, but an eeeeevil gecko sneaks onto their truck.

Their flight leads them to Paradise, Ohio, where the gecko turns into a cute puppy…of DEATH! At least, that’s what I kept expecting. But when the puppy passed up numerous opportunities to transform into a horrible monster and slay everyone, I ended up just being pretty confused about why they built up so much suspense.

Puppies aren’t the only danger in Paradise, however. There’s also Sarah (Dianna Agron), the school sweetheart. There’s an alliterative joke in there somewhere. Something like “dogs are dangerous, but nothing can match the peril of the…” I don’t know, some word for cat.

Anyway, Sarah is an irresistible cliché, the blonde who dated the quarterback of the football team until she picked up photography, thus gaining a lens into the soul and learning the true meaning of love. At least the quarterback is original, except for the fact that he beats up science nerds and can’t understand why Sarah doesn’t want him and hates John for moving in on his territory. And the science nerd isn’t just a science nerd. He happens to have a dad who was totally abducted by aliens so he’s obsessed with rooting out all extraterrestrials at the school. All this is nothing at all like Smallville, because in that show, the blonde photographer is the same person who wants to root out the mystery behind the alien occurrences, and a different character is the love interest.

I feel bad bashing this formula so much, because I have to admit, the characters really were hot, which is what really matters. Dianna Agron of Glee fame is a girl next door of no compare, and Alex Pettyfer is, undeniably, a beautiful piece of man. I mean, in his next movie, he literally plays a guy whose main character trait is that he’s really really ridiculously good looking. Based on that alone, I figured I’d be able to enjoy their romance, but man, was I wrong. This was supposed to be a superhero movie, dammit, and we end up sitting through more than an hour of plodding romance with no action whatsoever. And it’s not good romance either. It’s just like Twilight: all meaningful looks, lip biting, and a thirst for blood.

Maybe not the last one so much, but when this movie wasn’t Smallville, it really was Twilight. The main guy has a secret that makes him an outsider at the school, but a beautiful girl is intrigued by his mystery and they fall for each other. And Loriens, unlike humans, only fall in love once and it lasts. Isn’t it romantic? Blehck. Males everywhere will squirm in their seats. On the other hand, it’s a perfect date movie. The guys will be excited to go, the girls will acquiesce, and then the girls will be so pleasantly surprised by the fact that the guy took them to a chick flick that they’re sure to sleep with them. Except studies show that scary movies are much more likely to get you laid, so oh well.

Although the whole first hour had me teetering on the edge of boredom, what’s scary is how much I actually ended up liking the movie, because, you see, the last 20 minutes kick so much ass! The action sequence is the only place you feel like Michael Bay was attached to this, and it shows. Number Six (Teresa Palmer) arrives, and she’s this hot, sarcastic Aussie girl with wavy blonde hair who can kill the evil Mogadorians like nobody’s business and deliver one-liners right after. She slides on her knees, hamstringing baddies while Number Four deflects plasma gun blasts with his hands, shooting them back at his foes. Six can turn invisible and teleport and generate a fire shield and all this sick stuff. Which brings up the question, why is John’s main superpower the ability to turn his hands into flashlights? I mean, like, I guess that would be sort of useful, but I’d way rather be able to turn invisible. The movie has to find all these excuses to have the battles take place in dark places so that John’s power is useful, and it’s amusing to see how often they work it in.

Number Six was so cool that she saved the movie.The fact that she arrived at the end meant that I left feeling super stoked, which colored my whole experience with such a positive light that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. I don’t know why she wasn’t in the movie the entire time. Having someone fun and sarcastic was exactly what the plot needed to keep it from taking itself, and the romance, way too seriously.

So, way too much slow, clumsy romance (and don’t get me wrong. I love Titanic and The Notebook), and not nearly enough action, but the premise is good enough (even if it’s stolen straight from Superman), and when the fighting actually starts, it’s awesome (explosions, fireballs, plasma guns, giant winged monsters). If they made a sequel, I would definitely see it. Therefore, I give I Am Number Four:

3/5¢

Why did John decide to reveal himself to so many people in Paradise? The film made it look like he’d had a ton of close friends at his old school, but the second they found out about him, he fled. Within days of moving to Ohio, he was willing to confide in all sorts of people. Seems pretty fickle for a Lorien who’s supposed to bond forever, but maybe that same fickleness will mean that Number Six is a love interest later. Who wouldn’t pick Number Six over Sarah? Honestly.

Written by Russ Nickel

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