February 21, 2011

Movie Review: I Am Number Four

As I left the theater I must say that I was disappointed. That's not good considering that I did not have much in the way of expectations going in. It looked like a cross between Push and Jumper. I hoped it would be closer to he former while expecting the latter. It turns out that the comparison is not completely justified, but to go with it, it is much more like Jumper, meaning it is not a good movie. It is a marketing movie, a product that looks like it wants to be a Twilight-esque feature that guys can enjoy. It begs, borrows, and steals from a number of other properties yet doesn't give the ingredients enough time to simmer into a cohesive finish.

Sitting here, reflecting on this movie, I realize I don't really want to write about it. It is far from the worst film I have ever seen, but that doesn't say much, when it comes to bad movies there is a lot of room for company in its ever-expanding ranks. I Am Number Four is competently filmed and the effects are generally effective. The problem lies with the story, the writing, and the acting. It squanders is familiar premise in favor of CW-style where pretty people fill the roles and hopefully distract you from a lack of substance.

The movie opens in a jungle, in a cabin the two people come under attack, one goes running out the back but before long is captured and killed by some creepy guys with gills on their face and tattoos on their head. Cut to the Florida beach where we meet a local stud named Daniel (Alex Pettyfer). In the middle of the some evening festivities a glowing symbol burns itself into his leg.

The next morning he and Henri (Timothy Olyphant), his guardian posing as his father, gather their things and leave town. We get a voiceover where we learn that Daniel is not his name and his number four of nine refugee children of an alien world overrun by some nasties called Mogodorians who have followed them to Earth and must kill them in numerical order. This keeps him and Henri on the run.

That is about all we get as we settle into a high school drama with superpowers in a small Ohio town. He goes to school, defends the picked on geek, gets involved with former it girl turned pretty hipster (Glee's Dianna Agron), and ends up face to face with the alien baddies when they show up. Everything builds to a big final action sequence that takes out the school and the football field and reveals itself to be "just the beginning" as our newly formed battle group head off to fight more bad guys.

The story is not told all that well, most of the useful material comes from the voiceovers. When it comes to the day to day existence of the characters, it is as dull as it comes. Noting particularly special to be uncovered and a lot that will leave you scratching your head. For instance, why must they be killed in order? Is there any more detail to be gleaned from what happened on their home world? What is up with the appearance of the symbols on the leg? How about the emergence of the powers, or "legacies"? Why the awkward scenes of the blonde from time to time? They don't fit in with anything.

So, we know the story is told in slapdash fashion, how about the actual screenplay? Sorry, nothing special here either. We get the outsider stuff and your typical high school banter, and everyone fills their roles as needed. Your lead is the smoldering aloof sort that makes ladies swoon and the football team jealous. You have the jerky football captain who needs to exert his power as alpha. Then you have the pretty outsider whose newfound hipster lifestyle must be proven by a knit hat and film camera. There is no subtlety or semblance of reality in the words they speak.

The acting isn't much better, but I suspect that has a lot to do with the writing. The best part of the acting has to be Timothy Olyphant. you can see him really trying to bring some character and personality to the role. The rest just seem to be there to recite their lines, or in Agron's case, I was waiting for a song and dance number to break out.

The development of this project is interesting. The rights were sold up front, before the book was written. The novel and the screenplay were developed concurrently with each informing the other in their development. Certainly seems like a god way to work, too bad the end result (movie side, at least) is such a  dull affair.

Not Recommended.

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