“I Am Number Four” tries to cram a graphic novel sized story into a standard length feature film and that is the first of its innumerable faux pas. Before seeing the movie, I actually was not aware that this was an adaptation of the first installment of a young adult book series that can best be described as a science fiction version of Twilight. The first of SIX books. All I can say is that if those sequels do come to fruition and maintain the same consistency of quality, this may surpass the “Saw” movies as my least favorite series of mainstream movies to hit the 21st century.
But I am moving too quickly for my own good. First of all, when I say this is comparable to a graphic novel, I believe that it also may be the best medium to illustrate the mythologies and action sequences showcased in the film. I cannot imagine how any of this worked out in anything less than a picture book. Those last couple of chapters must be a real drag to tread through.
The story begins with somebody being murdered somewhere in Africa. This person was the third of the nine remaining survivors from the planet Lorien, who have all fled from the persecution brought on by invaders from a rival planet. These invaders can best be described as Voldemort with gills and tattoos courtesy of Mike Tyson’s artist. Plus their only real motivations for these actions are to promote their superiority over these unfortunate creatures. That’s deep, man.
If you are not familiar with the source material, you may be wondering, “what is with the numbering system?” Frankly, I am just as clueless as you are.
But anyway, this news gets brought to Number Four (Alex Pettyfer) in the form of painful scarring, which is what happens every time one of the nine dies. For some reason, they must be killed in numerical order, so he is next up on the chopping block. In order to impede the enemies’ hunt for him, he and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) escape to a small town in Ohio to start things anew. To make the possibility of capture less likely, he changes his hair color from brown to blonde, Henri erases all pictures of him from the Internet and suggests he go under the commonplace name John Smith. “I don’t want to be original,” says Henri, “I want to be invisible.”
Number Four becomes enrolled into a local highschool where he befriends Sam (Callan McAuliffe), the ill-fated punching bag of the school’s arrogant toolbag elite. Not only that, but he also begins to form a relationship with a quirky photography freak Sarah (Dianna Agron), who actually used to date the leader of the above-mentioned tools. Meanwhile, the bad guys are on the case of the young one as they search from town to town, all while toting around a powerful beast (or beasts) that they will occasionally stop and pull over to give a few turkeys to for sustenance.
This is an awful lot of exposition considering I have not gotten that far into the main plot of Number Four’s efforts to avoid detection. To tell you the truth, it is not this section of the movie that got under my skin so bad. These parts I am explaining, while not especially worthwhile, are still tolerable to a certain extent. The highschoolers may all be exaggerated caricatures of bullies (being in highschool myself, I would know), but there is nothing in here that is quite worse than the “Twilight” movies had to offer.
But by the third act, the true crappiness of the film really begins to get serious with itself. What we have here is possibly the most audience-insulting, excessive and idiotic final third I can remember since “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen” in 2009. Yes, THAT bad. It was not until this moment in time that I thought to myself “Michael Bay must have something to do with this part.” Sure enough, he is the producer of this project. He can still destroy props and setpieces like no other, but I would rather my pyrotechnics be meaningful somehow.
Explosions, bright colors, lasers beams emitted from handguns, CGI creatures (a dog morphs into a “Cloverfield” monster, no joke), CGI disappearing effects a la Nightcrawler from the X-Men, piercing sound effects, an obnoxious utilization of a musical score and random occurrences that seemingly come out of nowhere (see dog story above) are just a few of the torturous annoyances that come about during this time. The worst part of all is that none of the above is ever impressive or engaging in the slightest. It is almost as if the writers gave up on a legitimate payoff and insisted on throwing together one huge CGI explosion-fest only to be enjoyed by pyromaniacs and drunken fratboys who stumbled in to the screening room.
I pity anyone in an adjacent theater who is trying to watch something quieter or reserved like “The King’s Speech” or “No Strings Attached,” because the stentorian noise produced from this movie will undoubtedly carry over. With these things going for the mind-numbingly painful final third, “I Am Number Four” is one of the most offensive things to at least two of your five senses. The only thing I am thankful for is that it isn’t offensive in all three dimensions, as there will be no presentations in the 3D format. Congratulations, movie. You have one good thing to your name.