Science fiction and fantasy                                            

I Am Number Four

directed by D. J. Caruso

I Am Number Four poster  

Number Four may look a lot like a normal teenager, but he's one of the last of his alien race. Thuggish aliens known as Mogadorians have hunted down the first three, and he knows he's next on their hit list. So he moves on once more, taking the name John Smith and enrolling at school in a small town called Paradise.

All John has to do is keep his head down and remain inconspicuous. His guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) insists on this because he's spent years moving them both around and creating fake identities to keep them safely hidden. The fate of their entire species may depend on it. But John finds it increasingly difficult to lay low. When the school bullies pick on Sam (Callan McAuliffe), a studious and slightly-built young man, John can't help but try to stand up for him. He's also interested in Sarah (Dianna Agron), a fellow pupil who happens to be a keen photographer.

Unfortunately for John his relationship with Sarah brings trouble. Not only does she snap him, their growing friendship also makes the head jock jealous, and he warns John off her. Then John's special powers begin to manifest themselves in ways that are difficult to keep hidden. This brings the vicious Mogadorians sniffing around. John knows he should run, but how can he bear to leave town if it means leaving behind the new friends he's made and who he's begun to care deeply about?

To begin with the special effects are fairly subtle, downplayed in favour of John's interactions with the other young people. He may be alien, but Alex Pettyfer plays the role of John with a decent dose of the sulky teenager rebelling against the strictures of his cautious guardian, and it's a very human performance. Sam is determined to find out what happened to his real father, and he turns up at unexpected moments throughout. I particularly liked Sam's persistence and his curiosity in the face of danger.

This is a touching coming of age story, romantic and a little soppy but full of engaging characters, except for the jocks who are stereotypically over-aggressive. The bald, tattooed Mogadorians also suffer from being quite one-dimensional. Then about two-thirds of the way in come the giant flying alien beasts, colourful lazer gun battles, a biker woman who moves like a ninja, and massive explosions. It's like a completely different film has been tacked on at the end, and the special effects go into overdrive. It gives the movie pace and some interesting visuals. But it's also too predictable. I Am Number Four is a sweet, comforting movie that starts off intriguing and then moves into a formulaic alien-bashing by numbers deal. It's main strengths are the characters of John, Henri, Sam and Sarah, but sadly it doesn't always play to these strengths.

25th June 2011

Film Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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Review © Ros Jackson