Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: I Am Number Four (2011) TH

Teens, love and alien numbers

This is a person-with-special-abilities movie involving a teen at the center along the lines of "Smallville," "Jumper," "Harry Potter," "Twilight," "Percy Jackson" and "Push." John (Alex Pettyfer) moves around with his protective guardian and mentor Henri (Timothy Olyphant) to elude these tall, pale, bald things called "Mogadorians." After trouble elsewhere, involving normal people finding out part of who he really is, John and Henri find a home sweet home in Paradise, Ohio: a place where instead of running away it all comes together with real friends who might actually understand him.

John is the fourth of his kind of protectors of Earth, though this hunky, human-look-alike with the exception of glowing hands and calves hails from a planet called "Lorien" along with eight others. Three are tracked, hunted down and killed by the Mogs and John's number is up next, that is unless he can keep his powers to himself and control them. This is reminiscent of the whole Spider-Man motto: "With great power there must also come great responsibility," not to mention discipline and restraint. All things the normal person might pervert, and that's what typically separates heroes from villains: self-sacrifice vs. personal gain. Except the Mogs are a little more extreme as they don't want to colonize Earth, they want to decimate it--you know, those kind of savage villains of the '50s stock who look exaggeratedly hideous and are so one-dimensional that you're forced not to like 'em considering everyone else is normal or pretty.

Where Superman could easily fly into a telephone booth and comb his hair the other way without anyone suspecting a thing, our guy, Number Four, has 21st century technology to dodge his appearance getting out such as video streaming sites and web pages to spread photography of his presence, which is too tempting for him to contain. He's found a quirky friend to stick up for, who coincidentally has a thing with aliens and UFOs. Though he's got more than one enemy on his list, with the newest being the egomaniac school bully who comes in between a newly met, photographer girl to further complicate the challenge of forbidden love a la "Twilight." This is where the pacing turns somewhat light-hearted and melodramatic (think WB broadcasting) to show that people with extraordinary skills deep down inside have desires and deal with problems just the same. Though it creates a slower middle with the whole token, fairyland-in-modern-times love interest subplot and takes away from the fast moving pace it starts and finishes with. The last action sequence is loaded with special effects and involved a high-octane battle involving shootouts with alien weapons and odd looking alien beasts.

"I Am Number Four" squeezes every other convention into it of the last decade. It borrows from established big-budget pictures to create a recognizable formula that feels secure: aka cash-in. While it's a little more pliable and less shameless than others who straight take a formula, it still feels like they're camouflaging this as something you've already seen with different names, faces and only a few things shuffled around. This isn't going to be like "Heroes" where there is at least someone in the cast that you can gravitate towards, as the relatability factor of "I Am Number Four" is aimed towards a certain demographic with hardly any other punches pulled outside of its box. There are all kinds of things to learn and grow from, except it's slated towards an up-and-coming teen who doesn't know where they place themselves in life amongst the pecking order just yet, as it shows by example how these characters made it through in mostly one piece and gives courage to do so yourself. They do it, you don't, no one gets hurt, though it all kind of gets tiring after awhile with everything so smoothly falling into place by fate or coincidence.

Director: D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye)
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron