The trailers for “I Am Number Four” have been playing for weeks, promising innovative action, an intriguingly original sci-fi plot, and tons of comical one-liners by the always-great Timothy Olyphant.
But what we’re treated to is a high school schlockfest with very little action, a lot of teen angst and every cliché’ this side of “Glee.” The characters are one-dimensional, the dialogue is a mish-mash of one liners (most of which ended up in the trailer) viewers are served to what feels like an extended prequel.
Written By: Alfred Gough, Marti Noxon, Miles Millar
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron
That’s what’s extremely disappointing about “Number Four.” It has an attractive cast and what seems like an interesting premise. But we’re hoodwinked; most of the action promised delivers in the last fifteen minutes of the film and the cast is as much as hamper to the film as a benefit.
Director D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia,” “Eagle Eye”) does his best to work with a weak script, but even his taut direction fails to keep the film from coming off the rails somewhere around mid-film.
Alex Pettyfer stars as the eponymous “Number Four” — aka John –one of nine alien children, their planets only surviving members after a devastating war with invaders. Hidden on Earth, the children bear special abilities that may one day be able defeat the invading Mogadorians, if they live long enough. They are numbered sequentially and are being killed systematically –- and John is next.
Timothy Olyphant (“Justified”) portrays John’s protector Henri in what is one of the film’s redeeming qualities. Olyphant tries to bring emotional depth to the character and threatens to bring some plot as well, but his scenes are brief and apparently less important than the trite teen love story that dominates the film.
Dianna Agron (“Glee”) plays the beautiful-yet-sensitive cheerleader and primary love interest of John – as the films spends the first 80 minutes setting up. But all those one-dimensional characters make a difficult spread to feel for, especially as they go through every relevant film and television high school convention of the last decade.
Relative newcomer Pettyfer’s role in the film is mildly engaging, but his character’s motivations are rarely believable and hard to accept as the film goes further in. The progression of his powers and his reactions to them lack any believability, further putting a stake through the heart of the film.
The action finally shows up and even delivers in the last act: the last 20 minutes of a 114 minute feature. But after the buildup fails to engage, the frantic finish is hard to digest. The action scenes are pretty cool though, so the film delivers on that after an unnecessarily long buildup.
From the get-go the film hints at being a franchise starter, and the payoff is no less. But “Number Four” never settles on what it wants to do and the sci-fi plot is brought up but never discussed. There’s every bit of possibility that the inevitable sequels could show some promise; there seems more intrigue to this story. But you’ll have to sit through the first three quarters of this movie before tasting that potential.