I Am Number Four has a very inauspicious beginning. In fact, it seems as if the messy first ten minutes are the result of a last minute re-shoot and re-edit. First off, we’re treated to an ultra-dark opening scene with some awful special effects and vertiginous editing. This is closely followed by an expository voice-over (indeed, replacing a significant conversation we witnessed in the trailer) and then a collection of clunky, mistimed scenes in which hairstyles mysteriously change with the location. Then, somehow, the film settles into a steady pace. It’s rare for big budget Hollywood flicks to fluff up beginnings – think, conversely, how many poor films have great opening scenes – but I Am Number Four manages it.
Based on the teen novel of the same name, the film sees us introduced to Number 4 – an alien, one of the last of his race, sent to Earth and being chased down by the *giggle* Mogadorians. 4 – now known as John – decides the best place to hide out is a school (probably ’cause he’s been reading ‘Twilight’) and pretty soon falls in love with the human Sarah, another student very much on the outer (again, this is probably what he hoped would happen after reading ‘Twilight’). The Mogadorians are still on his tail, but John is also discovering he has certain super powers, which must make him feel a bit better about his situation.
It takes a while to get over the multitude of contrivances that stick out in the first hour of this film. To add insult to injury, the music, editing, and scripting signals every single event before it happens, so that the viewer is never surprised (apparently even the presence of ‘Buffy’ alumni, Marti Noxon, didn’t elevate the quality of the writing). However, things get better. I’m not sure if it was the quality picking up or simply my brain surrendering, but eventually this soft sci-fi/action movie got to me.
The performances go a long way to making I Am Number Four watchable. Everyone performs admirably considering the less-than perfect screenplay, and even Timothy Oliphant succeeds (though only barely) in delivering some massive clunkers with commendable conviction. Alex Pettyfer is decent in the lead role (even if he looks too much like an underwear model), whilst Dianna Agron is excellent as love interest, Sarah. Aussie Theresa Palmer gets to kick some arse whilst retaining her accent, which is neat, whilst Kevin Durand has some fun (and inadvertently reminds us this is a movie made for 12 year old boys) as the *snigger* Mogadorian commander.
Aside from the horrific opening scene, the special effects are decent. You can see they’re cutting corners here and there (having events take place at night time certainly helps), but the hero moments are strong enough to convince. In fact, they bring out the big guns for the climax, and perhaps the fact that the film ends on such a high note was what pushed me over the line on this one.
I Am Number Four doesn’t take the superhero, action or sci-fi genre anywhere spectacular, but there’s enough to keep one entertained. Above all, some persuasive performances (and great looking performers) make the film worthwhile. As to whether it succeeds in kicking off the franchise the makers are clearly hoping for, that remains to be seen.Rating: