Wednesday, 25 May 2011
I Am Number Four
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Diana Agron, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Callan McAuliffe
By Alan Bacchus
An ancient war between alien races makes its way to earth in a cozy rural American Midwestern town where a handsome and cool ‘chosen one’ experiences the social conflicts of high school before battling disgusting malevolent baddies to death for the sake of mankind. This is the one-liner for this quickie, but not all that forgettable, attempt to create a new Twilight franchise from the young adult sci-fi novel of the same name.
John Smith (Pettyfer) is the new boy in town, an elusive loner trying to keep to himself while hiding in exile from his war-torn planet from afar. Along with his mentor, Henri (Olyphant), John has settled in this non-descript American township, but he’s always looking over his shoulder. Somehow he gets put into high school and as is customary, he immediately gets targeted by the local bullies for some hazing. Unfortunately for the bullies, John has extraterrestrial telekinetic powers like ‘the Force’ and thus kicks ass all over the place.
Meanwhile, the former girlfriend of bully #1, Sarah (Agron), has taken a liking to John and flirts up a storm. At the same time, the alien baddies are on John’s trail. These bald, tattooed giants wearing Matrix-style trench coats find their way to town to confront John, Henri and his new friends.
With Michael Bay attached, whether it’s as producer or director, we are certain that a) there will be lots of beautiful people, b) lots of palatable family-friendly destruction and c) slick candy-coloured visuals.
The slickness of this picture is not lost on us. Director D.J. Caruso takes this familiar place and story and injects a strong visual style and keen eye for action. The fights, whether they involve local cops who get in the way, the bullies or the truly grotesque evil aliens, are well choreographed and visually inventive.
The familiarity of everything in I Am Number Four results in a fluffy, disposable quality to this aspiring franchise. There’s an allusion to a lengthy and complex back story and an unresolved ending, which could result in some kind of trilogy or multi-sequel/prequel series. But without the strong fan base of a Twilight, the literary credibility of a Narnia/LOTR or even an established star on which to piggyback, this will likely be a one-off fantasy flick.
This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some sappy romantic plotting, laser fights and the Star Wars-style mythic journey plotting. Just don’t get too attached to the material.
I Am Number Four is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.