I Am Number 4 (2011)

Aliens. Normally they’re either invading Earth, trying to escape it or probing cattle bums for a laugh. I Am Number 4 features a unique Alien storyline – an Alien who is trying to hide.

Perhaps more akin to Superman 2 than the Twilight films, I Am Number 4 is about Number 4 (Alex Pettyfer), one of 9 remaining “Garde” from the planet Lorien. Lorien was destroyed by the decimating Mogadorians, a race who exist simply to destroy other races. These Garde all possess certain powers (or “legacies”) passed down through their generations and the 9 remaining were all children when they landed on Earth, unsure of their abilities and importance. Number 4 is now living on Earth, desperately attempting to blend in and go unnoticed.

In our modern world, keeping off the radar is virtually impossible, and Number 4 is always on the move. Why? Because he has started developing powers – like glowing hands and super-strength – which alert Earthlings to his uniqueness and, more importantly, reveal his location to the evil Mogadorians.

The set up is relatively simple and immediately accessible. What I Am Number 4 does well is entertain. Although there is an emotional crust to it, the film is created to excite and be an absolute blast – and succeeds admirably. There are explosions, gun battles, sword fights, telekinetic assaults and giant flying squirrel monsters crashing through classroom walls. It’s genuinely fun stuff.

So what is the threat? Well, the Mogadorians have found the last 9 on Earth and are systematically murdering them in order. 1, 2 and 3 are dead and Number 4 knows he is next. Guarded by the world-weary Henri (Timothy Olyphant) – a warrior from Lorien – they take a stand in a town called Paradise in Ohio, but not through choice, but because of love.

These type of films have to have a love interest, and Number 4′s is local photographer Sarah (Glee’s Dianna Agron). Luckily their relationship works. It’s not a depressing doom-laden starefest like Twilight and it’s not a cheekily hidden-identity cheesefest like Superman. Their love is realistically portrayed and doesn’t drive the plot – it merely happens.

I cannot comment on how faithful the film is to Pittacus Lore’s book (having not read it), but you can only hope Timothy Olyphant’s haircut is due to the novel’s influence and not because he’s been taking acting tips from Nicolas Cage…

So what is good about I Am Number 4? Surprisingly, a lot. The action is awesome fun, the general direction very good, the script perfunctory but decent and the supporting characters superb. Special mention should go to Dianna Agron who is utterly believable and wonderfully underplayed. UFO geek Sam is also played adeptly by Callan McAuliffe, giving a grounded, loveable performance throughout. Perhaps the best and most surprising element of I Am Number 4 are the bad guys. At first the “Mogs” look hilariously clichéd, like a fanged version of Eric Bana’s Nero in Star Trek, dressed in leather jackets and snarling through gill-flared noses. But when they speak you realise they’re insanely sadistic; a gleefully cruel race of creatures who delight in destruction and are horribly playful in their death and torture. They’re immensely watchable and oddly likeable…

The bad stuff in I Am Number 4 is of no huge surprise; occasionally D.J. Caruso’s action scene direction is very confusing, being too quick and dark to understand what is actually happening. Reminiscent of Michael Bay’s recent directorial technique of “whack it in a washing machine, press Full Spin and film it”, it’s no shock that this was produced by Michael Bay Productions. Caruso’s previous efforts (Eagle Eye and Disturbia) prove he has flare but is yet to achieve his potential. Another problem is Alex Pettyfer. He is incredibly plastic / wooden / immoveable, and struts about like a pouting swim-wear model throughout. Perhaps this is how Lorien aliens act, especially considering Number 6′s (Teresa Palmer) penchant for leather, red motorbikes and dark shades. It’s posery (occasionally laughable) stuff, but thankfully the supporting cast and the excellent kineticism of the film stops this woodenness from being a disaster. Kids will love it.

Certified as a 12A, there are some surprisingly grim moments of horror in I Am Number 4, mostly coming from the Mogadorians and their love of sadism. One scene will give children nightmares.

Overall I Am Number 4 is surprising fun. Pettyfer is bland, the direction is sometimes frustrating and the script isn’t great, but the supporting cast are brilliant, the action hilarious fun and the bad guys genuinely exciting. Fun, light entertainment. Except for the bit with Brian Howe and the razor ball. Nightmares await…

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.