2011 gets its first real adrenaline shot this weekend with the release of I Am Number Four, yet another adaptation of a young adult book series looking to be the next big thing. Unfortunately, inconsistent pacing and an overly strong emphasis on teen romance keep the film from achieving its potential.
I Am Number Four is directed D.J. Caruso, who directed the surprisingly entertaining Disturbia and Eagle Eye, which was good until it was stupid. Caruso is a decent director and has created an adequately decent movie with I Am Number Four, but loses the battle in finding the right balance between teen drama and legitimate sci-fi thriller.
The balance doesn't tip towards the thriller part.
In the movie, we're introduced to John (Alex Pettyfer), an alien who has lived his life on the run, trying to escape another species of aliens intent on wiping his kind out of existence. John has special powers, which he begins to discover as three others of his kind are murdered - putting him squarely in the killers' sights.
Of course, knowing that, it's the perfect time to strike up a relationship with a hot blonde at his new school, who looks a lot like Dianna Agron from "Glee." Inevitably, the bad aliens track him down and try to kill him.
The story is a bit absurd, but nothing outlandishly so. In fact, the premise is prime for building a big, badass action franchise. It's just that the movie itself isn't that great. It's entertaining, it's engaging, but it's stupid and cheesy and misses the mark despite a more-than-reasonable target.
Pettyfer is fine in the lead role. He's neither great nor forgettable; he just is. Luckily, Timothy Olyphant is in the cast to spice things up, and really is the only one who adds any kind of flavor to his or her character. Dianna Agron and Teresa Palmer look great, so that's something.
The trouble with I Am Number Four is that it glosses over the things that are really important and that Hollywood likes to ignore when adapting books like this. You know, like essential subplots and character development. Character motivations are rarely explained, or if they are they aren't given the proper context to be believable.
Movies don't have to be realistic - I Am Number Four is about a bunch of pretty looking aliens who have superpowers - but they do have to be believable. Upon reading the book's Wikipedia page, it's clear the adaptation butchered the story just enough to strain believability.
Nonetheless, once the movie finally kicks into gear - and I should place emphasis on ‘finally' - I Am Number Four becomes pretty good. The big action climax is pretty good, save for the shape shifting dog creature, and offers up some promise for further installments of the movie should they happen.
I Am Number Four has its moments and by large is moderately entertaining, but it feels more like a science fiction version of "One Tree Hill" than a legitimate thriller. The movie spends too much time dwelling on artificial teen conflict and too little on developing more engaging story arcs.
Those looking for mindless entertaining could do worse, but D.J. Caruso is capable of much more.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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