Fri 18 Feb 2011
Whether or not one subscribes to, or cares about, controversy over the origins of the book that “I Am Number Four” is based on (you can read Ben East’s article here), the obvious intention here is to create another cash cow franchise, a la “Twilight”. And whereas most of these Young Adult oriented film adaptations have failed to elicit much critical praise, “I Am Number Four” may just break that trend.
Now don’t get too excited. After all, at the helm of this ship is director D.J. Caruso, of “Disturbia” and “Eagle Eye” fame. However, he seems to have left the grave of Mr. Hitchcock unmolested this time around and simply stuck to telling the story, free of unnecessary flourishes or pretentious concepts. (Even more importantly, Shia LaBeouf is nowhere to be found).
The basic concept is that nine children of a defeated (NOT decimated as one character describes it) alien race have fled to Earth, trying to avoid being murdered by another set of aliens. For reasons unexplained to this point, the kids are assigned numbers for names and hunted down accordingly (in ascending order of course).
The central character, as the title implies, is Number Four. Played by Alex Pettyfer, he’s your basic cardboard cutout hero type. The character isn’t written very dynamically and the actor doesn’t do much to flesh it out either. However, some of the supporting characters really help to stabilize things and that starts with Timothy Olyphant. As Four’s designated protector, it’s his job to keep them safe and unnoticed by the bad guys. Olyphant convincingly pulls off his roll and was able to tap into the necessary paternal instincts required.
Dianna Agron of “Glee” fame is the human love interest but she might as well as called her character Quinn and wore a cheerleading outfit. The other numbered alien we meet is Six, played by Theresa Palmer. She does well, finally allowed to keep her Australian accent and kicking butt for most of her screen time. My only complaint amongst the girls would be that they look too similar but with my aversion to reading, I have no idea if that’s the fault of the author(s) or screenwriters.
Callan McAuliffe, as the outcast who manipulates his way into the inner circle is the best of the kids. He’s basically the character most identifiable for the audience and as he searches for answers to his own past, we get caught up on his family’s connections to the aliens that may or may not factor into future installments should they be greenlit.
What the film may lack in certain static cast members and a plot that feels very similar to a number of properties, it makes up for in earnestness and visual effects. When the waring alien races clash, the battles are fast and fun, full of explosions, fire and special powers; and really, that’s all I was hoping for with this film.
As such, there are three reasons why I’m giving “I Am Number Four” a 3.5 out of 5. First, it does what it needs to do in the genre and gets decent acting out of most of the cast. Second, I’d actually be okay with seeing a sequel (which is more than I can say of its ilk like “Twilight”). Third, it’s not in 3D! If you’re a fan of the young adult books that are currently all the rage when it comes to fast tracking franchises these days, this is as good as they get (unless you’ve got a boy wizard named Harry Potter involved of course).