The monster/alien movie genre has recently trended toward a sort of stripped down minimalism. This is not the case for I Am Number Four, which is obvious to the point of being laughable, but doesn't fail to entertain.
Whereas old-school directors preferred to throw slimy creatures in everyone’s face, many filmmakers today choose to tease the audience along with brief glimpses and subtle atmospheric influences, as is the case in District 9, Cloverfield, and the excellent Korean monster flick The Host .
I Am Number Four, on the other hand, revels in its obviousness. This is apparent within the first five minutes of the film, in a scene in which several characters cruise around on jet skis while Kings of Leon plays in the background: “It’s in the water/it’s where you came from." Several of these blatant little in-jokes occur throughout.
The conspicuousness of I Am Number Four does not detract from its entertainment value, though. If anything it allows for a more streamlined experience, free from all the clutter of trying to decipher things on one's own.
If one is confused by the first 10 minutes of the movie, the film’s lead (Alex Pettyfer) jumps in at minute 15 with an inner monologue chock-full of backstory. Perhaps, we assume, he suffers from short-term memory loss and is forced to revisit his past every so often. It is, after all, quite a past.
First, a war on his home planet forces several inhabitants to flea. Then, John (Pettyfer) finds out that he is one of nine individuals specifically rescued because of his special powers. They are the key to stopping one of the most malevolent forces in the universe. And that force happens to have its sight set on the same planet to which the nine have fled, Earth.
The baddies, Mogadorians, or Mogs for short, have to eliminate the nine if they want to take advantage of Earth’s nearly extinct natural resources. They also have to take them out in numerical order for reasons about which we shouldn’t worry too much.
The movie catches up with John and his warrior guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) just after No. 3 has been brutally stabbed to death. Wanting to be proactive, John and Henri pack up their things, burn any potential evidence and leave sunny Key West, Florida, for rainy Paradise, Ohio. Get it, paradise?
That’s where things get complicated. John, not satisfied to be kept a prisoner in his own home, enrolls himself in the local high school. There, he falls for Sarah (Dianna Agron), the girl whose website and photography fetish help lead the Mogs right to him. He also befriends Sam (Callan McAuliffe), the one kid in school whose missing father happens to have been on the hunt for John and his fellow eight.
This is all facilitated by the fact that John’s people speak perfect English and are very attractiveunlike the Mogs, who speak some weird garbled language and have gills on their face. Perhaps abject jealousy trumps the whole extinct resources thing.
The action leading up to the final battle is well-paced and creatively executed. The special effects are also quite good. While the guns that the Mogs use look a little like b-movie throwaways, the damage they do is pretty cool to see. This is probably due to some financial and creative input from executive producer Michael Bay.
Ultimately, I Am Number Four is a well-made and decently acted little entry into the supernatural teenager movie pantheonand just obtuse enough for people of every age to get.
I Am Number Four
Regal Stadium 14