Review: I Am Number Four

daniel cohen reviews the latest sci-fi flick …

Plot: After the Mogadorians overtook and destroyed the planet of Lorien, nine children where sent to Earth, each with guardians and each with special powers they will slowly discover as they get older. After the killing of the first three, 17-year-old “John” (Alex Pettyfer) is number four and next in line to be murdered by the Mogadorians as he and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) move from town to town.

It’s always ambitious and challenging to make a sci-fi fantasy film about aliens, other worlds and special powers because they have a great tendency to look silly and stupid. While that doesn’t happen in I Am Number Four, it does commit the other big sin of poorly explaining what this is about and why I should care. There are some things to like here, but the importance of Lorien, Mogadorians, legacy powers and other crap is just so lazily explained, why should I take this seriously? Not to mention, this movie moves incredibly slowly.

And that really pisses me off. If you are going to move at a snail’s pace, you might as well give me some exposition. The absolute worst part about this movie is the unbelievably shitty job they do of clearly explaining what super powers “John Smith” has. One day in school, his hands start glowing and from there he does a bunch of weird stuff making it difficult to discern what kind of powers he actually has. As the movie goes along, they will just introduce a new power for him making his abilities convenient for the plot with no rules or thought whatsoever. You need rules — otherwise, I’m not going to feel any suspense or fear for this character. Instead, I was just like, “Oh, he’s in trouble. I’m sure he’ll randomly have the power he needs to get out of this.” And there is so much other important stuff just explained badly. There is this thing with a blue glowing rock that is supposed to bring all the remaining Numbers together, and I couldn’t tell you how the hell it’s supposed to work and neither could the makers of this film.

Now, I did mention some positives. I really liked two of the characters here. Henri the guardian (Timothy Olyphant) is that good mentor/protective adult and the director (D.J. Caruso) does a good job of making you feel for this guy, especially with some strong dialogue. When he’s talking to “John” about Lorien, you genuinely feel sympathy for him. Teresa Palmer also plays this mysterious badass that really shines at the end. She’s probably the most interesting character, even though she’s in like three scenes. Unfortunately, the main character “John” or Number Four is completely lackluster and bland. Alex Pettyfer is going through the motions. This is a real problem. He’s the damn protagonist! He’s fine in scenes with Henri, but he’s got almost no personality. Also his love interest Sarah (Dianna Agron) is such a cliché as the quiet artistic photographer who wants to travel the world someday … give me a break.

Going back to my prime issue with this movie and its poorly explained importance is that the villains (the Mogadorians) are completely interchangeable bad guys. There is nothing here. They are just depicted as evil races who like to overtake planets. That’s all we get. Come on! First of all, they look like fricking rip-offs of the Romulans from the last Star Trek movie, and there isn’t even a main leader or anything. The way they talk and sound is kind of interesting, but other than that, they are just a bunch of random bad guys. It’s just pathetic writing.

I’ll give the movie some props for not having a lot of cringe-worthy and bad-humor moments which can easily happen in this genre, and the last action scene is pretty cool and has a couple neat twists, which at least brings some solid entertainment value. But other than the action, which there isn’t much of, it’s cliché and boring high school drama with bad characters. But when you have a movie that’s close to being a ripoff of Superman and you just have no feeling or care for the story, that’s a pretty big problem.

This isn’t horrible, but it’s nothing you need to see. Also as a side note, they do one of those things where they plan a sequel at the end. Yea, how did that work out for the Golden Compass and The Last Airbender … just focus on making one good movie first, alright.

Grade: 5 out 10 (Passable Entertainment)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.