I’m sitting there with my overly-buttered bucket of popcorn, anticipating the action-packed, scary, original sci-fi promised by all the trailers of I Am Number Four. I’ve since learned a lesson: don’t judge a movie by its trailers. While the first two scenes live up to the hype, a love story unexpectedly takes over the remaining hour and 10 minutes. Chick-flick-lovers will probably appreciate that unexpected twist. As for thrill-seekers, I doubt it.
As one of nine surviving super children from the planet Lorien, John Smith (Alex Petyfer) has led a life of constant running – well, running, jumping, climbing, and flipping (remember, he’s super). He and eight others managed to escape their planet just before it was destroyed by icky-looking evil space aliens called Mogadorians (Mogs, for short). John and the rest of the human look-alikes are currently hiding out and “blending in” on earth. Thus, the hunt is on as the big bad aliens try to kill the good ones. But, they have to kill them in consecutive order. Number One is first, Number Two is second, and so on. Number Three is graphically killed in the first scene, and John proves smart enough to figure out that four comes after three (kudos, John). Sound like a pretty original premise? Sure. I’d give it a B+ for unique storyline. Too bad two-thirds of the film is not about the main premise at all. Here comes the corny, high school love story.
No offense, but I think the scriptwriter pooped out pretty quickly with this one and may have settled for a Google search: “most overused lines from the cheesiest of movies.” Phrases like “I’m not gonna let anyone hurt you” and “You have no idea what I’m capable of” don’t exactly add color to the movie’s most important moments. No doubt it’s a worn-out line when you only have to hear the first three words and already can predict the rest of the sentence.
Petyfer’s high-schooler character is the primary bearer of these corny lines. In a number of instances, I have no doubt he would do much better to simply keep his luscious lips closed. About that, girls: have some chapstick handy. I guarantee you’ll be licking your lips for the rest of the movie once Alex’s flashy smile and ripply stomach take the screen. Actually, perhaps this was the strategy of the scriptwriter. He must have figured that having such a pretty-boy actor eliminated the necessity for good lines. For many females in the audience, that is probably spot-on – Petyfer’s well-endowed looks do tend to distract from his lack of personality. But they don’t make up for the lack of originality.
And then there’s the beautiful Sarah (Dianna Agron). At first, you may think that Sarah’s character fits the “sweet and blonde” high-school-crush cookie cutter. Well, if by sweet you mean stalker and by blonde you mean brainless, then yes, she fits it perfectly. Let’s just say her character makes for some wonderful entertainment. Sarah’s photography is not so much a fun hobby as it is an obsession, and it gives her license to stalk the cute, new kid. She not-so-sneakily snaps pictures of John the very first day he shuffles down the halls of Paradise High. By the time he gets home that afternoon, John sees that Sarah has apparently already rushed home to upload 50-some photos of him onto her website. Creepy. But he sure doesn’t think so. The smitten guy just gets smitten-er. Sarah’s stalker-ish traits continue to entertain (and slightly worry) me as she constantly texts John, who, by the way, never answers a single text throughout the entire movie. Classy. Sarah’s brainless side is further highlighted in a particular scene when she uses “totally” as an adjective three times within 20 seconds. That’s hard to do. But in all fairness to Agron, these character issues simply seem the result of an unoriginal, sub-par script and an awkward female role.
Number Four’s cinematography and music further detract from the originality. The explosions look like something off a Mario Kart video game, and the dim lighting always has to get dimmer when the few “action” scenes start up. At one point, I don’t know who has just killed whom, but thankfully, the happy-go-lucky music helps me figure it out. The remainder of the score features a smattering of everything from girly pump-up tracks by artists like Adele to misplaced country songs by the Zac Brown Band.
At the end of the hour and 31 minutes, the only thought on my mind was, “What’s that studly guy’s name who played John?” Then I started thinking more about the movie itself. The actors were beautiful. The special effects were not special. The original premise was mostly discarded. The character roles were interesting. No, ridiculous is more like it. Ditto the script. So what was it that made it so darn entertaining? I suppose I just fall into the chick-flick-loving category. Here’s your chance, ladies. Let the rad sci-fi-seeking boy be tricked into taking you to the girly love story.
All in all, if you are entertained by purely easy, breezy, cheesy love stories, I would give the movie an eight out of ten. But if an original sci-fi is what you seek, the film doesn’t even make the number four.
Watch the trailer: