I Am Number 4 (2011) – Review

John Smith is no ordinary teenager...

Twilight meets Smallville (via Glee thanks to Dianna Agron) in the film adaptation of Pittacus Lore’s I Am Number 4. Following the blossoming romance between the not-quite-human boy John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) and the loner-type Sarah (Agron), the film offers a generic, but enjoyable, romp as John struggles to survive.

Being one of nine alien children evacuated to the safety of Earth after a group of evil Mogadorians attack their home planet, John moves, with guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant, who, here, is not given the space to excel), from town to town trying to evade the clutches of the Mogadorians. From a dramatic opening and voice-over we discover of the nine, three have already been killed and John, the titular fourth, is next on their list.

The mystery set up in the film’s title (who exactly is number four, why is the number significant?) is ultimately let down by its meandering and predictable storyline. I Am Number 4 is nothing we haven’t seen before and when misfit John happens across true love you may find yourself rolling your eyes. The clichés and stereotypes that abound are played well enough, even if the characters are not given room to do anything fresh with the film’s recycled tale. John Smith is aptly named, being a character who could so easily be Edward Cullen, Clark Kent or any of the host of mysterious teen boy types. Due to this, his slow realisation that he has super powers (here called legacies but that ultimately boil down to the same thing) is less than exceptional; something expected and, slightly, unimpressive.

For all of its stereotypes, D. J. Caruso’s I Am Number 4 is still an entertaining watch that does gradually improve as the film wears on. Discovering he has hands that shine a light when overly emotional (a light that would put Harry Potter’s lumos spell to shame), John is understandably spooked. His worries ebb however thanks to Sarah and her quaint aspirations to be a photographer. When his secrets are revealed Argon’s Sarah seems unfazed by the whole ordeal and is ultimately outshone by the appearance of Teresa Palmer as the legacy-weilding mysterious number six.

The film, through John’s dog and the Mogadorian’s strange truck, serves enough intrigue to keep the viewer watching but spends its finale battling deadly nemeses on school premises. Effects-laden scenes come thick and fast, pumping adrenaline into a story that, until now, was wilting. Handily the goodies and baddies’s fight is colour-coded, making it easier to distinguish who’s doing what in the fight scenes that follow. Iphones litter the screen and, when the likes of Adele and The XX appear, you get the distinct feeling that the film may be trying a little too hard to be hip.

With its all-too-perfect leads and its predictable development, I Am Number 4 can hardly be considered ground-breaking. Nevertheless it will no doubt please fans of teen fodder and will, inevitably, reappear in cinemas thanks to the publication of sequel ‘The Power of Six’ this summer.

Best line: ‘You have no idea of what I’m capable of’.

Sharlto Copley was cast as Henri but had to leave the project due to other commitments.

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