Review: Tedious Characters and Dull Action in 'I Am Number Four'

February 18, 2011

I Am Number Four Review

I Am Number Ugh. I Am Tedious. I Am Four Trainwrecks Piled On Top Of Each Other. Yep, all of these are suitable alternate titles for DreamWorks' new sci-fi movie I Am Number Four, given what director D.J. Caruso has provided us with. It is a tedious story told with all the accomplishment of a bad episode of a CW show. I take that back. Shows like Smallville and Supernatural are downright nuanced when compared to something like I Am Number Four, a film that doesn't even allow its more action-based moments to come off with any level of genuine energy. I Am Numb. There. That's another good one. I Am Done With That.

Played by Alex Pettyfer, Number Four is one of nine beings from another planet who have come to Earth to hide from the evil Modagorians. Along with his guardian, played by Timothy Olyphant, Number Four discovers the previous three have already been hunted down and killed by the evil race of aliens. He goes under the guise of an American high school student and awaits what he fears to be the worst once the baddies discover where he is.

I Am Number Four is co-written by Miles Millar & Alfred Gough, the creators of Smallville. This is a fact you can absolutely tell watching it. Number Four, under the pseudonym John Smith, gains Superman-esque powers, even has a Jimmy Olsen-style sidekick, and generally spends days at the school attempting to hide his identity from the bullies and teachers there. Unfortunately, the events in Smallville are more real-world orientated than what's found in I Am Number Four, and any amount of connection we the audience might have with any character here is trampled under the weight of plasticity and general weariness.

It's a weariness that comes from waiting for something to happen. We know the Mogadorians are out searching for Number Four. We even cut to them in there small caravan of vehicles tracking our protagonist down. However the film reaches an absolute zero on the suspense gauge. There is no intensity built at any time nor does it ever feel like the villains of the film are any kind of believable threat. This even comes after characters are killed off, after a fairly exciting opening chase scene where Number Three is killed.

It could have something to do with how one-dimensional the Mogadorians are. They wear black. They have tattooed and bald heads and sharp teeth. They speak in some gutteral language. They must be the villains, right? If that isn't convincing enough, we have Olyphant's guardian to keep reminding Number Four and us how dangerous they are. Of course, we never get that from the actual Mogadorians themselves. The villains in I Am Number Four aren't even characters enough to have names. Kevin Durand plays the Mogadorian Commander (actual name of the characters), and there are fleeting moments of levity with him. Other than that, they are all completely one-dimensional and serve little in their presumed foreboding.

What we are left with then are drawn-out scenes of Number Four trying to fit in. He finds love in a local high school girl played by Dianna Agron whose only purpose seems to be to get Number Four's image out to the world and provide one more connection to the human race. The film cuts to a mysterious woman played by Teresa Palmer who is seemingly tracking Number Four, as well, but she disappears for long stretches. You completely forget about her by the time she reappears, and by the time she actually comes into play in the film's story near the end, you've lost interest. Palmer does provide some of the cooler moments of actual kick-ass action during I Am Number Four's conclusion, a rather dim light when seen in the sea of monotonous darkness that is the rest of the film.

Of course, once the action in I Am Number Four does decide it wants to join the party, Caruso proves he's taken a few notes from producer Michael Bay's book. The action in this film is so jittery, so fixated on close-ups and medium shots, and so bereft in amicable lighting or framing you rarely have any idea what is going on. Surprisingly enough, the few times you really do get a good sense of choreography in the film's action come from two, giant, CG-created creatures battling it out. It's almost the reverse of Transformers where it was the ridiculously-designed CG monster battles you couldn't get a coherent grasp on.

We might care a little more for the characters and events that transpire in I Am Number Four if any of the cast gave us anything more than apparent line reading and surface-level reactions. Pettyfer seems to be pulling his acting styles from the school of Brandon Routh, that veteran of the arts. No one comes off as believable in the film, which could theoretically be played off as aliens trying to fit in with humans. If you can spin it that way and make the film more plausible, by all means go for it.

As with any film based on a series of books, I Am Number Four ends with an obvious promise of more adventures to come. If they are to ever get off the ground, perhaps the tedious character establishment and premise setup can give way for a little excitement. Perhaps the ensuing Mogadorians can be a little more dimensional than what we're given this time. Perhaps a follow-up to I Am Number Four will be far more nuanced and, likewise, entertaining than this first film. That way we can avoid such suitable titles as I Am Number Bored. Okay. Now I'm really done.

Jeremy's Rating: 4 out of 10

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Dude! Well, I'm still gonna watch this whenever I get a chance to. At least now my expectations are lower, which might help me enjoy this more, so I'm kinda glad the reviews are mostly bad 😀

David Perretta on Feb 18, 2011


Man there are just no good movies out this week. Oh, wait Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son is out today!!!! ..

DesinaCoda on Feb 18, 2011


If only the theaters showing Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son served Booty Sweat drinks at the concession stand.

Anonymous on Feb 19, 2011


I just read the book and I have too say it was very cute, sweet and charming. A little like a lighter Starman.

Loser on Feb 18, 2011


I guess I'm slow but does the line about Brandon Routh mean he sucks as an actor? I liked his version of 'Superman' and his character on Scott Pilgrim as the super Vegen guy. Anyway, the trailer for this movie looks like a teeny bopper super hero flick anyway. Was never interested.

Judasbarronx1 on Feb 18, 2011


Routh was also funny in his cameo in Zach and Miri make a Porno.

Anonymous on Feb 19, 2011


Not knowing anything besides what I've seen from TV spots, I was honestly hoping this would be good. The premise seemed like it had some legs. But alas, websites such as this one, appear to have saved me from wasting my money.

Jace on Feb 18, 2011


I don't want to throw out the "I told you so" line but when the first trailer came out I said this looked like it could have been a monthly Disney channel movie. I was heckled for it. You can easily spot a stinker when you see one. I Am Number 2 is a stinker.

Tyler Morgan on Feb 18, 2011


this is shocking !!!

Tester on Feb 18, 2011


Well I guess I will not be going to see that then. You nailed it about describing Routh.

fancy pants on Feb 18, 2011


4 out of 10 is generous... This film is simply ghastly. It's depressing to know that something as atrocious as this can make it into wide theatrical release AND IMAX. Thanks Michael Bay... bastard. If you're intrigued by the premise, the movie will only crush whatever potential you think it has. I like a lot of cheesey movies. But this is just insultingly bad. I give it somewhere between 0-1 out of 10.

ZZZ on Feb 18, 2011


It was not horrible. It was slow, thats for sure, but I and many others enjoyed it. I don't like to listen to the critics or the crowd for that matter because after all they did make a "Sex & the City 2", hell they made one and even that was more than unnecessary, it was pointless, as are many other "Popular" things. Everything's an acquired taste, Just give this a chance. I truly enjoyed it and I know any fans of Caruso or the book will as well.

Realitysdream24 on Feb 18, 2011


Seriously, did you expect anything else from this?! I called horrid CW episode from the first 5 seconds of the trailer.

Andy Ortega on Feb 18, 2011


I have to agree with someone from the last article you wrote. This is like some 5th grader copied random excerpts of people's comments on Rotten Tomatoes and the grammar...oh my don't get me started. I wish I could say something about the movie but I'll be seeing later probably and chime in then. I actually feel bad for insulting Ethan and have new found respect. Where's our reviewers of old that actually get into detail about movie and what makes it good or bad without sounding like a totally pretentious dick that's too cool for CW but not Jersey Shore.

Tra la la la la di da on Feb 19, 2011


i saw it today.. and it was cool to watch.. cool efects and the fighting scenes where awesome.. its no jumper (thank god) and also no push movie.. its just fun to watch. i'll see it again when i get the chance.

tron11 on Feb 19, 2011


This was on my top ten for 2011 list, the story seemed deep and realistic too. Imagine an alien from another planet hoping to blend in with us humans? I have never heard such an original idea, setting it in a highschool is just genius.

Crapola on Feb 19, 2011


I thought it was a great movie! Not an Oscar winner, but definitely entertaining, original, and fun to watch. I'd recommend it to anyone. The fighting scenes were good.

will on Feb 19, 2011


I don't really care how bad the movie is, Diana Argon is in it, She could make the worst movie in the world good, just with her smoking hot looks!!!

Ktime on Feb 20, 2011


This movie was actually really good IMHO. The dialogue was actually very solid and snappy at times. The dinner scene and following bedroom scene were pro-written. Yes they were simplistic, but very harmonious. The lines weren't over-delivered. It was believable. Sad to say, but Timothy O. did the poorest acting job in the movie. The fight scene choreography was the best I've scene in a film in years. Hands down, no contest. The effects worked too. They had just the right amount of "cool". I'm not worried that the movie was a little light on action. This movie did it's job in setting up a more action packed sequel, and I look forward to meeting more aliens and seeing number four & six's powers grow. P.S. Did anyone else think that closing shot was absolutely beautiful? I know I did and the song helped. (can't think of the name)

Zmyrick19 on Feb 20, 2011


Oi Jeremy, Be careful what shows you dis when writing your reviews, Smallville and Supernatural have large, loyal fan bases and one word to them about this will have you inundated with abuse. You've been warned!!!!!!

Dar-El on Feb 20, 2011


Just saw it today, and thought is was really good, ESPECIALLY the climax. Can't wait for a sequel.

Lamar on Feb 21, 2011


cardboard cut characters in a cardboard cut story. Saw this last night and I really wish I hadn't. Why aren't there better sci fi movies being made?

Syntax Error on Feb 23, 2011

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