D.J. Caruso’s I Am Number Four is an enjoyable sci-fi adventure film. It is not strikingly original, but is entertaining nonetheless.
John Smith is a teenager with a secret. Although he appears to be a regular teenage boy, John is one of nine children saved from an alien planet. He is also the next target for enemies who wish to destroy him…
I Am Number Four is based on the novel by Jobie Hughes and James Frey (who write under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore). The film combines science fiction and action elements with a teen movie. It functions in a similar way as that grand progenitor Buffy the Vampire Slayer, albeit with less humour.
In some ways, I Am Number Four is a typical Michael Bay production. Although the film does not contain his usual excessive symbols of patriotism, several other hallmarks are present. The overblown action sequences are featured in I Am Number Four, as well as Bay’s usual character types. Moreover, the film is a paean to small town America, with its idyllic depictions of Sarah’s home town. This idealised version of the American small town becomes grating at times, given its fairy-tale like qualities.
The narrative is fairly run of the mill, with few surprises. The ending of I Am Number Four echoes Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman film. There isn’t the desired conclusion where all ends are neatly tied up. Instead, Caruso suggests further chapters to the story. It is slightly unsatisfying that details of the background are not detailed fully; these presumably saved for future episodes.
The production values of I Am Number Four are solid. Special effects are good, except the battle between the two monsters where the CGI is very obvious. The soundtrack is bursting with contemporary artists, intended to give the film an aura of coolness, in all likelihood.
Performances are varied in the film. Alex Pettyfer is a suitable lead, but seems to have been cast for his looks and physique rather than his acting skills. Dianna Agron and Callan McAuliffe provide adequate support as Sarah and Sam. Timothy Olyphant gives a well-rounded performance as John’s guardian, Henri. Teresa Palmer, however, is lacklustre as Number 6. Her delivery is poor, and her stilted portrayal is upstaged by an animated performance by the dog.
While I Am Number Four will leave audiences entertained, it is questionable how successful it will be as a franchise. It lacks the charisma to pull back viewers, though perhaps a future film will show more spark.