I Am Number Four (2011)
After seeing Warm Bodies last summer, I was primed to recognize its two stars names in other projects. During (one of) my Christmas shopping sprees on Amazon, I came across this teen sci-fi movie that just so happened to star Teresa Palmer and the rest is history. Or so they say.
Picking up and leaving is something John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is well versed in. Every new place he lives welcomes new people into his life but none of them know the truth – or the real John. They all assume Henry (Timothy Olyphant) is his father when in fact Henry is merely a protector. John is not human but from an alien planet that was destroyed, and whose only living inhabitants are now being tracked by a deadly enemy. When their life is again disrupted by a physical reaction John has to another death, the pair again disappear.
This time, they settle in an off-the-map kind of town where John meets the beautiful Sarah (Dianna Aragon), a girl at his school who becomes his first love – the kind that lasts forever, as his kind is known for. Trouble doesn’t stay away for long and soon, John is forced to learn how to control new, powerful abilities and to protect the people he loves he’ll have to become stronger than ever before, little realizing that means he’ll need to find the rest of his race to defeat the force hunting them – beginning with Six (Palmer).
This movie has two strikes against it for anyone who is tired of repetitive patterns. One it’s a teen drama with the usual shenanigans and secondly, it falls into the typical patterns of the norm sci-fi genre with all the big explosions that probably takes away good character expression. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help thoroughly being entertained by the script and while there were less-than-ideal twists or action sequences that while “cool” are used more to cover screen time than add to any actual importance of the story. If one doesn’t mind cool special effects doing the work of what should be a story with more substance than honestly I am Number Four isn’t a bad way to spend an evening.
Stripped down to its minimum, the story isn’t anything unique (hero coming of age) though I confess to being impressed with the conclusion – it was ambiguous in the best sense and left plenty of ground to cover which was done I suspect with the hope of an eventual sequel. (Book trivia: this is based off a YA novel, too which does have literature sequels.) Nonetheless the fact that writers ended it without everything being sorted perfectly was interesting. I liked all of the characters though am not ashamed to admit that was likely some bias showing having liked Pettyfer in a prior role as well as Olyphant and of course, Palmer. Combined, the cast was quite good together and gave audiences some charismatic personalities. John is an interesting hero – quiet, yet searching for his place in the world and finding out how to control his abilities. Six, unfortunately didn’t have enough screen time; she was a fun, kick-butt kind of girl in the same sort of tradition as Black Widow.
Those action sequences rival blockbusters like The Hunger Games or some of the recent super hero fandoms. The choreography is really quite something and will awe avid action film buffs – tying into that is a fun making-of featurette that shares the details about specific stunts as well as the first-hand experience of Palmer. If you like this particular variety of filmmaking or are just looking for something fun in the same vein as Cowboys and Aliens or any of the popular sci-fi “teen films” (Jumper) of recent years then this might be just the movie for you. It “pops” with excitement and as previously stated, I did love the cast. In short, it’s a terrific little movie for those of us willing to enjoy something entertaining without a complicated backstory.
(Content: the creatures sent to fill John and his fellow comrades are frightening – they destroy everything in their path and also travel with a terrifying beast that they unleash on unsuspecting victims. Victims are hurled across rooms, shot, stabbed or dismembered any number of ways. Not everyone makes it out alive because of this. There is little sensuality, but a scene or two may bother some viewers. Minor profanity plays a role in the script. The film is rated PG13.)