When The Numbers Don’t Add Up

When The Numbers Don’t Add Up

Static Mass Rating: 2/5
Walt Disney

Release date: February 23rd 2011
Certificate (UK): 12A
Running time: 110 minutes

Directors: D.J. Caruso

Cast: Dianna Agron, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Kevin Durand, Alex Pettyfer

Over the years we’ve had more than a few films dealing with the idea of being a-little-more-than-human and trying to survive high school.

Whether you’re a vampire, werewolf, mutant or alien, the core of it remains the same. High school is hell no matter who you are or what you are.

I Am Number Four is a film which on the surface promises a number of things: action, romance, special effects and aliens. It delivers them all, but for audiences who want a great story rather than genre formulas it might be a number too small.

I Am Number Four

We meet John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), an alien and fugitive from the planet Lorien, on the run from intergalactic enemies who want to destroy him. He is one of nine who escaped to Earth but so far three have been killed. Having to change his identity again, his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) advises him to keep a low profile and blend in as he starts school in a new town called Paradise.

This is a bit difficult to do if your hands keep lighting up like flares in the middle of class and your superhero strength makes it too easy to win fights against human bullies. It’s the sort of thing that gets you noticed. First with nerdy conspiracy theorist Sam (Callan McAuliffe) who’s looking to make a friend and then with Sarah (Dianna Agron), another high-schooler, she shies away from cliques and cheerleading in favour of her preferred past-time, photography.

While John tries to settle in to his new life, his enemies descend on Paradise with some big beasties in tow.  Help arrives in the form of Number Six (Teresa Palmer), another alien from Lorien who’s been covering John’s careless tracks.

I Am Number Four

Based on the book of the same name by Pittacus Lore, I Am Number Four relies on us being unfamiliar with teen stories such as Twilight, Vampire Diaries and Smallville to think this is a unique story, as it’s reluctant to establish ground of its own to stand on. This comes as a great shame, not least because one of its producers happens to be Steven Spielberg.

At the London press conference, director D.J. Caruso spoke about the special effects used in the film:

“When it’s just pure CGI, the audience isn’t involved in the movie. I wanted to have a lot of practical things…when walls were crashing in, and Alex’s lumen – he really had a practical effect in his hand to make it look real for the actors. The other challenge was making sure I dramatised the characters, so by the time you got to the end, and you had all this CGI, and effects, and monsters, you really cared about the characters.”

I Am Number Four

Most noticeably, it lacks depth and heart. Without those things in place it’s difficult to hold a story together which in large parts is too predictable. In the end we have no reason to care about characters who at times come off like X-Men rejects. There are quite a few scene-stealing moments, unfortunately they reminded us too much of superhero classics.

From the rather promising opener to an indecisive third act, there’s a lot of back and forth with the characters not really knowing what to do. Although there are glimpses of a great story, the guys always seem to stop right where it gets really interesting. It felt disappointing to see an ambitious movie missing the opportunity to take a stand in an overburdened genre.

While I Am Number Four is set up to invite a franchise to rival the Harry Potter series, we can’t envision it going further than this.

You might also be interested in these articles:

We caught up with writer and director Reg Traviss for a chat about Psychosis, working with Charisma Carpenter and his love for British horror films.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ben Sherwood, this moving melodrama with supernatural elements brings together the idea of living life and letting go.

Angelina Jolie stars in Salt, out to own from Monday 13th December. We have a look at the Blu-ray, special features and female action heroes in spy movies!

A disappointing take on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick set in a mythical realm, substituting the story’s whales for dragons. Starring Danny Glover and Vinnie Jones.

Directed by Quentin Dupieux, Rubber is a surreal film-within-a-film that breaks the fourth wall and addresses the absurdity of reality and our limited realm of perception.