Flawed and by no means a masterpiece, I sense “I Am Number Four” is a film that will become one of my favorites that I’ll be defending for years to come. I won’t sit here and claim this is a flawless piece of science fiction action cinema, but for what it promises in the beginning, it works wonders in delivering what’s essentially a teen oriented action film. “I Am Number Four” touches on my weak points in fiction concerning teens realizing their destinies and aliens from another world battling it out on mid-west suburbia confronting each other in a war that neither of us can fathom.
“I Am Number Four” could stand to be so much better if it didn’t bog itself down in unnecessary melodrama in the first half. And that is one of its primary downfalls. The film spends an abundance of time dedicated to the woes of our young protagonist Number 4 who goes through an almost “Karate Kid” romance with the girl of his dreams whose ex-boyfriend is a muscle bound jock prone to violently taunting him whenever he’s around. But when it finally does get rid of all of the melodrama and focuses on the point of the movie involving grasping destiny and an alien civil war, it really does lend itself to being a rousing and spectacular bit of escapism that puts to use some nifty devices and plot elements.
Alex Pettyfer plays Number Four, a young man who is constantly on the run with his protector and mentor Henri (played by a deadpan Timothy Olyphant) from opposing alien forces. It seems there are people on Earth much like Number Four, gifted with super human abilities and blossoming powers all of whom are being hunted down and killed. After having his powers accidentally discovered in the middle of a social gathering, Henri moves himself and Number Four across the country to dodge the media attention and the wrath of the Mogads as they inch ever so closer. In a new town, Number Four takes a new identity and finds romance in the form of Sarah, a rebellious photographer who is pitted in the middle of the war when Number Four’s secret is leaked and the Mogad’s zero in on his location.
DJ Caruso hasn’t been on my best side when it comes to his cinematic inputs, but “I Am Number Fou” is an admittedly low key and entertaining bounce back that introduces a rather fascinating narrative involving the search for power and Number Four’s investigation in to his destiny. Conveniently, his powers come full circle when pushed over the edge by the town thugs, and now he must figure out a way to harness them without giving in to his darker urges that involve homicide and chaos. For what the character requires, Pettyfer is a considerably good performer who plays the part with enough competence to make Number Four a fascinating character not brought down by insecurity.
His insistence on mastering his powers make him someone to root for, and he transforms in to an admirable hero by the time the film comes to a close. There’s also Teresa Palmer who does a bang up job of portraying Number Six, the equally super powered bombshell who helps Number Four realize his potential and aides in the final battle that makes up the film’s key scenes. “I Am Number Four” thankfully delivers the goods when it comes to action set pieces and sharp special effects, it’s just a shame we didn’t get too much answers to nagging questions. Why did all of the aliens retreat to Earth? Are they aware they’re a number as well?
Do their powers vary from Number four and six? Are they preparing for a new war on the planet? If sharing the same space increases their power, why do their protectors retreat rather than spend time trying to find others? Nonetheless while the questions are seemingly left in the air for a series or sequel, “I Am Number Four” provides a nice distraction with interesting characters, and a surefire hero we can get behind. It’s by no means a perfect film or a masterpiece of the genre, but “I Am Number Four” is a fun and often times exciting scifi fix that works in telling a fascinating story with epic possibilities and strong performers, in the end. I really hope a sequel comes along to answer our questions and close up some loose threads.