'I Am Number Four' (dir: D.J. Caruso, 2011), Cert: 12A
Stories of young men possessing impossible powers and risking everything for a girl may be a tale as old as cinema itself, but it seems to have become immensely popular in recent movie-going. Characters like Edward Cullen from the ‘Twilight’ saga fit this boat perfectly and we’ve all seen how successful his character is to the modern viewer, so why not put another one up? Now director D.J. Caruso (‘Disturbia’ (2007)) presents us with his screen-adaptation of Pittacus Lore’s Sci-Fi Action novel ‘I Am Number Four’. Produced by Michael Bay and written by Alfred Gough and Miles Miller (‘Smallville’), this should be a fantastic picture filled with dazzling effects and ferocious action, but is that the case? Or is it just another mind-numbing pyrotechnics carnival?
John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) may have an ordinary name, but he is far from ordinary. John is from a distant planet, and is one of 9 who escaped to Earth who all possess incredible powers. John is consistently hunted by a group called the Mogadorians who have already killed three of his kind. He moves from city to city, changing his identity frequently. He finally settles in Ohio where he attends school and tries to become a ‘normal’ teenager. He meets Sarah (Dianna Agron, Quinn from ‘Glee’), a beautiful young woman whose obsessed with photography. They form a connection and John finds himself falling for her, but he can’t afford to let his affection get in the way of his secret identity. The pair now embarks on a dangerous journey to escape his certain fate and find a new life. Three are dead, he is Number Four.
I approached this film with caution; I am not a fan of Pettyfer, nor did I know this was based on a novel. My main attraction point was Gough and Miller’s screenplay as I am a huge fan of ‘Smallville’, plus I like Caruso’s previous pictures. As I took my seat, I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I can safely say I wasn’t, in fact I couldn’t believe just how much I enjoyed it.
‘I Am Number Four’ is a relentless and engaging Sci-Fi Actioner that has that perfect balance between style and substance. For many critics, having ‘Produced by Michael Bay’ slapped on the poster makes them see red and probably makes them bias prior to watching which I think is incredibly unfair. There is no denying that this film contains ‘Bayhem’; you can see it so clearly in some sequences, but Caruso fails to get carried away with mindless amounts of explosions and carnage. They are all used in sensible quantities and when the narrative requires them.
|Still from 'I Am Number Four' (dir: D.J. Caruso, 2011)|
This film is a great spectacle in all senses; its CGI is incredible and makes the picture look stunning, the cinematography is crisp and it flows wonderfully and Caruso’s keen direction keeps you on the edge of your seat. The opening minutes of this film are breath-taking and all of these things come into play.
Sure, this film doesn’t seem particularly original but then again, what does nowadays? And yes, it does contain some incredibly cheesy dialogue, but I found it funny rather than irritating. If people find the dialogue off-putting in this, they clearly haven’t sat through any of the ‘Twilight’ pictures. I think those who totally shun this film before viewing are not only missing out on a treat, but are obviously shallow-minded.
The performances are good all around; Pettyfer is great as John and I didn’t find him annoying as I usually do. He plays the part with conviction and power making John a likeable and believable hero. He doesn’t seem as down-trodden as characters like Edward Cullen or Harry Potter, but he’s certainly a hero who will win audiences over. Agron is also entertaining as Sarah and it’s refreshing to hear her talking rather than singing. She looks gorgeous, but masks her beauty with her timid and sensitive nature making her a perfect love interest. Timothy Olyphant is also very good as John’s protector Henri, and Teresa Palmer is an all-action heroine as the cool and edgy Number 6.
‘I Am Number Four’ is a perfect Friday night film that all will enjoy. I’m certain critics will gouge their sharp teeth into it’s flesh like a pack of hungry wolves, but what they will be missing is underneath some silly dialogue and Bay’s manic touch is a truly entertaining and visually impeccable feature which puts the majority of Hollywood blockbusters to shame.
This film won’t win any awards, and it probably won’t win much respect from people, but it won me over massively and it was a joyous experience watching it. It’s one of my favourite films of 2011 so far and I’m proud to stick up for it. This is not just a box-office gobbler; this is a really great film that does what cinema was made to do; entertain. Roll on a sequel.
This is no Oscar movie, nor is it artistic cinema or your typical ‘5 Star’ picture, this is a nuts-and-bolts popcorn flick that will brighten up your day. I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
By Chris Haydon