Friday, February 18, 2011

I Am Number Four (Movie Review)

If you are reading this, I want you to have no doubt of my love for you. It is for you, the reader, that I willingly subject myself to movies like "I Am Number Four", based on the bestselling young adult novel by Pittacus Lore (which I have not read).

The story centers on a high school boy who is played, of course, by a college age man (Alex Pettyfer). He is on the run, with an older man who protects and guides him. They are aliens from the planet Lorien. John (the alien boy's human cover) is one of nine children from Lorien who are in hiding on earth from the evil Mogadorians who wish to kill them simply because Mogadorians are bad aliens and that is what they do.

Most of this is explained after the first 5 minutes of the movie, in a bit of voice-over exposition that steals any mystery that might have pulled me in and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. This tone can be summed up with the word "simplistic".

I don't know how old the characters are in the book, but it seemed to me that this story should have either been told using characters 4 years younger, or should have been more clearly marketed as being "based on the young adult novel". Either would have been a tip-off that this movie was written for younger sensibilities than mine. As it was, the "Twilight" vibe I got from the trailers wasn't quite strong enough to ward me off, and I bought my ticket with reserved hopes for a cool, serious, sci-fi/fantasy action flick.

If you thought that "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising", "Eragon", or "Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief" were cool, serious, sci-fi/fantasy action flicks, then you'll enjoy this movie and know much of what to expect from "I Am Number Four". Although this flick has decidedly more sexual energy, with no relational maturity to go along with it. (A groan-worthy "Dawson's Creek" combination.)

The dialogue and characters are two-dimensional stereo-types. People constantly react and say things that just don't make any realistic emotional sense. And yet the tone of the movie isn't playing this up by stylistic choice. It actually seems to want us to buy into this reality and take it seriously.

One subplot even includes the resurrection of the "Popular Quarterback And Lackeys VS. Science Nerd" cliche from 80's "coming of age" flicks. A line in the movie even acknowledges this cliche, saying sarcastically that it never gets old. But actually, it does. At least as executed here.

Pettyfer betrays his experience with modeling, as he rises just above wooden posing for this role. Most other actors do about the same, or at least offer little subtext to their screen-time.

There are some cool action sequences in this movie, including a few shots not seen in trailers. But if this movie doesn't sound like your style, save your money and just check out the trailers one more time. The best stuff is free. And even if you do like the sound of this movie, if you're strapped for cash wait for Redbox and watch some "Smallville" in the meantime.

Very little that might trigger worthwhile discussion after this movie, given that the movie itself is so forgettable. But for those who enjoy the flick, themes of authority figures are present. Like many teens coming of age, John is discovering that he is growing in his abilities. (Super powers in his case.) And yet he is not free to exercise them however he wants because he still lives under the authority of another, who limits his freedom from a desire to protect him. This parent figure is portrayed in a positive, loving way. So the movie is not anti-authority in the sense that "Transformers" was.

There is also an interesting point about love made more than once in the film. John's alien species is unlike humans, it is stated clearly, in that they fall in love only once and remain in love for life. Today, love has lost much of its meaning, becoming less about commitment and more about transient feelings. So this story point was a welcome divergence from the norm in an otherwise unoriginal film.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.

Quality: 5.5/10

Relevance: 6.0/10

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