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Movie Review: ‘I Am Number Four’

February 20, 2011

The best way I can describe I Am Number 4 is a sort of contemporary update of Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) for the Twilight set. If that sounds appealing, you’ll like the movie. If it doesn’t, skip it.  I have fond memories of Escape to Witch Mountain, so I didn’t mind the shameful ripoff of the the storyline as much as some.

Based on the popular book by Pittacus Lore (actually a pen name for James Fry), the film tells the story of Number Four, one of nine extraterrestrials who live on earth and are being pursued by the Mogadorians, who destroyed their planet. Number Four and his guardian Henri are constantly on the run, barely staying one step ahead of their would-be assassins. The first three have already been killed, and  Number Four is the next one up.

Number Four has been creatively named John Smith by his guardian/protector Henri played by Timothy Olyphant. This moniker is used so that John may blend in and be inconspicuous when he attends high school. Never mind the fact that nowadays anyone actually named John Smith is immediately regarded with suspicion because it is such a cliche.

Indeed, when John does attend a new school at the beginning of the film, every time he introduces himself to someone as John Smith, their response is, “You’re kidding, right?” Way to blend in. Making matters worse, John can’t keep himself from defending a nerdy kid being bullied and immediately draws the ire of the school’s alpha male consortium. Yes, he’s a smart one, that John.

He also falls in love with a beautiful and sweet artsy-type (Sarah)  played by Glee’s Dianna Agron. This time when Henri tells John it’s time to pack up and go, John steadfastly refuses, because he doesn’t want to leave Sarah behind. We later find out why she is so important to him.

Henri has no choice but to try to prepare John the best he can to defend himself. The two work on honing John’s emerging powers for upcoming battle. This being a Michael Bay production, when the action comes (it takes a long, long time to come) it is LOUD, relentless, and over-stylized.

The last action sequence is also accompanied by the appearance of Number Six, played by Teresa Palmer, who kicks some major ass during her way-too-short screen time. I wish she would have been in more of the movie. The film’s ending obviously sets up a sequel, with Number Six being prominently featured.

The film is short on substance, and could have been cut down considerably in running time without any consequence to the threadbare plot. Their are giant  gaps in logic. For example, during the film’s final action sequence, Sarah and John are literally running for their lives. The Mongadorians are breathing down their necks, and the two decide to duck into their high school dark room to make googly eyes and develop some photos that Sarah took of John. Seriously. It was just one of many eye-rolling moments in the film.

If you are expecting a hardcore  sci-fi movie, you will be sorely disappointed. There is very little of the mythology explained. I have no idea why the Mongadorians are trying to kill the nine, it is never explained. On the plus side, the Mongadorians are all kinds of creepy.

Alex Pettyfer plays John, and I’m not buying that he is the next big thing. Although he is easy on the eyes, he emotes precious little emotion during the film. Dianna Agron is lovely but has nothing to do. Olyphant, as usual, is solid. Callan McAuliffe is sweetly charming as the nerdy sidekick who is obsessed with alien lore.

Overall, this is an utterly forgettable popcorn film, but I am excited about the prospect of (hopefully) seeing more of Number Six, and the action sequences were satisfying.

Rating 3/5


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9 Responses to “ Movie Review: ‘I Am Number Four’ ”

  1. Eric M. on February 20, 2011 at 9:49 am

    They stated in the film during a conversation between Henri and John that the Mongadorians are a species that decimate planets (assumingly for resources… IDK). During the destruction of their planet (lorien) the nine were escaped to preserve a fighting chance. They each inherit their powers from their parents who were warriors of Lorien. It’s stated at least once in the film that these nine were the only beings with the ability to stop the Mongadorians. This is obviously the reason why the Mongadorians are hunting them.

    It’s also mentioned in the last action sequence that by killing the nine the Mongadorians would quickly be able to take over Earth.

    Maybe my taste in movies is different, but I believe it deserved at least a 4/5.

    I do have to agree with you about the photo developing at the high school. That was extremely stupid and it felt like all they were trying to do was force a development of the love interest. Bad timing in the film to do that and unnecessary.

    On the topic of Witch Mountain, I got more of a Superman feel from the story since John actually grew up on earth and has no intention of leaving. The aliens in the Witch Mountain stories were stranded on Earth and were trying to leave. It had similarities to Witch Mountain, but ultimately I wouldn’t draw that correlation from it.

  2. Shannon Hood on February 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Thanks for your comment. I do remember them having a short conversation about the Mongadorians, but I certainly would like to have seen more dialogue on this. I think it would have been more interesting. I do remember them saying by killing the nine the mongadorians could take over the earth, but why did they want to so bad? for the resources? For a plot device? At any rate, thanks for clarifying.

    I buy your Superman argument, but in Escape to Witch Mountain the kids were always running from people, hence my correlation.

  3. kwok on February 20, 2011 at 11:49 am

    The Magadorians can only be destroyed by the nine who have super powers. No one else can control them. The Mogadorians kill for no specific reason – they simply want to take over and destroy – it says so in the movie, I didn’t read the book. They are simply destructive forces, with no good at all in them. They want to kill the 9 so badly because they are the only ones who can stop them from taking over earth.

    And the nine want so badly to destroy Mogadorians because 1) if they don’t, they will kill the 9 2) they are the only ones who can save this earth and earth is basically now their home since their own planet, Lorien, was completely destroyed by the Mogadorians. 3) You can see from the movie that the Loriens are a more evolved and moral beings (John can’t stand to see his weaker classmate bullied or the dog left out in the cold, and their love is forever, unlike human’s). So presumably, more then just self preservation, they do the right thing, and the right thing is protecting the earth from these creatures because they are able to.

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  5. chris on February 20, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Your analyzes of the movie is pretty good and I agree with you almost completely except for the picture part at the high school. At that exactly moment they weren’t running for their lives from the Mogodorians, they were trying to get away from the police. It wasn’t until after they got to the school that the Mogodorians showed up. And she went to develop the film because as they were running from the police and going through the woods, John stopped and handed her the camera and said he was going to leave and she said stop and took him to the school. So it’s not really a gap in logic. Also if you want more clarification on the story between the Loriens, the 9, and Mogodorians then read the book, it clears up everything. Over all I agree with you and think that the movie was a 3.5/5.

  6. Jasmine on February 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I agree with you a hundred percent. I didn’t read the book but from what i got out of the previews I thought it was suppose to be a sci-fi action movie but what i saw was a cheesy love story with alot of eye rolling moments. I have to agree with you completely about the story needing more elaboration about they’re home planet and everything that happened, even though they did explain it. It would have been nice to see where they came from via memory flashbacks or story narration sequence. It would have been nice to have more chase and escape scenes with the mogadorians and should have had number six introduced earlier for these scenes. Overall I rate the movie 2.5/5

  7. Joe on February 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    I thought the movie was pretty damn good. I agree with the photo sequence being woefully rididculous but the rest of the movie was good. For those who say there is too much Twilight mushiness in it, I believe the purpose to this was to show the higher emotional and moral state of the loriens over humans. Also to drill in that Loriens only fall in love once in there lifetime. The fight between the loriens and the Mogadorians were pretty cool plus I like the chimera aspect of the dog. Obviously some things were left out of the book for run time purposes but it is that way with all book adaptations. The book clears up a lot about the Lorien planet and the war witht the Mogadorians.

  8. iron dog on March 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    hey u guys acouple of questions um whats the next movie guna b called and do u think it will ever show number 1,2,3 i would like to c them and what they do…

  9. iron dog on March 9, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    oh just a lil thing i forgot to say me and like my entire college all think that there will be another movie about numba 1 and in the bigining it will show the planet and all the people on it and how they got to earth… does dat make sense???