“I Am Number Four” is a new movie by director D.J. Caruso, whose previous movies include “Disturbia” and “Eagle Eye.” It is neither a particularly good movie nor a very memorable one and suffers from being too generic. On the plus side, though, it does feature some pretty, pretty people.
“I Am Number Four” is about a teenager, John Smith a.k.a. Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) who is really an alien with special powers. He is on the run with his warrior protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) from evil aliens. When John senses the death of “Number Three,” he and Henri go on the run again – this time to Paradise, Ohio where John meets love interest Sarah (Dianna Agron) and nerdy sidekick Sam (Callan McAuliffe).
The movie is unoriginal and lacks direction and tone. For the first half of the movie, it doesn’t seem to be able to decide whether it wants to be a high school romance or if it wants to be more of an action-adventure movie. There are elements of science fiction in it, too, such as a brief history of the alien races, but it all seems casually tacked on. The characters can’t even keep their backgrounds straight. Henri mentions that only Number Four and Number Nine have powers, but that’s clearly not the case when Number Six (Teresa Palmer) shows up. All the aliens have fake-looking swords that glow, though, so I honestly was not expecting much in that department.
“I Am Number Four” borrows heavily from other popular movies. The evil aliens resemble Lord Voldemort. Some of John’s powers are Jedi-like; he even uses a Darth Vader death grip a few times. At times, “I Am Number Four” really feels like a checklist of popular movie clichés. Romance between the girl and the mysterious new kid? Check. Rebelling against parental authority? Check. Even though John is in grave danger and must keep a low profile, he insists on attending school. High school drama? Absolutely. Even though the stereotypes are painfully obvious (i.e. obligatory school bully, the outcast, etc.) at the school, everyone still feels the need to constantly talk about their social status. The result of the combination of all these clichés is not the ultimate popcorn flick but a movie that limps along.
It’s not all bad though - some of the performances keep the movie interesting. Pettyfer is pretty flat, but his co-stars Agron and Olyphant are both pretty charismatic. McAuliffe is also likable when he’s not spewing off dialogue to further the plot.
At its best, “I Am Number Four” is a light-hearted action movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It gets into an okay groove toward the end and has a few good moments, but everything seems to fit together too nicely. Coincidences happen too frequently. The visual effects are not that great and are only a small step up from the visual effects seen in the average action TV show.
Ultimately, though, it just feels too generic and panders to a high school audience. Why not explore themes that are not cliché? John develops quite the penchant for using his Darth Vader grip – it would have been interesting to see a movie about that. Sam was raised by his dad who believes in aliens, so growing up, Sam thought that believing in aliens was the norm – I’d rather see a movie about that.