Judge Patrick Naugle was never good with numbers.
Is it just me, or does the title of this movie sound like an Abbott and Costello routine?
Interest was riding high for the Michael Bay produced I Am Number Four when the trailer hit back in early 2011. Starring one of the featured actors of the hit show Glee, a host of other hot up-and-coming talent and directed by hip director D.J Caruso; I Am Number Four seemed like a sure thing. And true to form, yet another mediocre, carbon copy teenage action movie made a bunch of money even though it featured dead weight characters and wholly unoriginal special effects work. For those who thrive on such nonsense, I Am Number Four is now on Blu-ray care of Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
John, AKA "Number Four" (Alex Pettyfer, Beastly), is an alien on the run. Not an illegal alien, mind you—we're talking E.T. Jor-El. Paul. Predator. Greedo. That kinda alien. Four is guarded by a protector named Henry (Timothy Olyphant, Live Free or Die Hard) and both are on the run from the vile Mogadorians, extra terrestrial rivals who have already almost completely wiped out John's race, leaving under ten of his people left. Each time one of the "Numbers" are killed, John's forehead scar seems to throb like a grizzly bear in heat. John tries to blend in at a local high school where he meets a cute shutterbug high school student, Sarah (Dianna Agron, Glee), who a must protect her from the dastardly Mogadorian Commander (Kevin Durand, Legion). Hunted by the gill faced and toothy Mogadorians, Number Four must figure out a way to stay alive or face extinction on planet Earth.
I Am Number Four is about generic as a bag of dime store flour, and only half as interesting. Movies like this seem to go out of their way to choose the blandest, least interesting actors casting agents can uncover. Case in point: Alex Pettyfer, a handsome, chiseled leading man who does nothing to distinguish himself from…well, any other handsome, chiseled actor toiling in Hollywood. Case in point number two: Dianna Agron, who would look great in a background shot on MTV's "Spring Break Special." These two actors waltz into the movie, recite their dialogue and then stand around while special effects workers diligently and tirelessly to create a story—ANY story—around them. Like a beautiful Faberge egg, the exterior of I Am Number Four is shiny and pretty while the inside hollow and without substance.
My biggest gripe with I Am Number Four is it isn't able to engage us on even the most fundamental levels of storytelling. The plot—aliens hunting other aliens on earth! Oh my!—has been done to death and in far better movies with far more interesting characters since about the dawn of celluloid. The clichés this movie revels in can be rattled off with great ease: the cute artistic girl with a camera; the hot guy with a secret; the Zabka-esque villain (look it up, it's a funny joke); ugly alien bounty hunters in long black trench coats; parents who are oblivious to everything their kids already know. Need I go on? It's as if screenwriters Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Marti Noxon (yes, it took three people to write this stinker) phoned in this screenplay during one long, tequila filled weekend in which the writing took place between hot tub jaunts and prime rib dinners.
Director D.J. Caruso lends about as deft a touch to this movie as the Incredible Hulk breaking wind during a monsoon. Everything is explained in excruciating detail, which is understandable since it felt as if I'd walked in on the fourth film in a movie series I'd never seen. Caruso's previous two films have been a mixed bag of the surprisingly good (Disturbia) and not so good (Eagle Eye). With I Am Number Four he fouls out on almost every level conceivable. That this movie was produced and shepherded by Michael Bay (whose Transformers look like Schindler's List by comparison) should come as no surprise—I Am Number Four is all substance over style, much like most of Bay's other (often better) efforts.
"Okay," you're thinking, "So the characters and plot bite. Well, how about the special effects?" Created by the usually innovative Industrial Light and Magic, the effects work here spans the gambit of passable (the main character's palms lighting up, cars flying through the air) to almost unbearable, as when a giant otherworld beastie and a basset hound (!) that turns into a slobbering reptile duke it out inside a local high school. There is nothing in this movie that is visually original or stimulating. I defer to the analogy of telephones and dialing in a performance—everything and everyone here feels just one lackadaisical phone call away from a paycheck.
My biggest questions is: what drew all these talented people to this material? The story is hardly original or worthwhile. I like to think that any story can be told with panache and verve with the right amount of effort and talent, but I Am Number Four certainly doesn't fit that bill. Teenagers as aliens only serves to create a place for weird romance and lots of battles with other qusai-human looking beings; think Twilight, only with less death and more space invaders. It's a big insult to realize that the filmmakers probably figured their audience would be young and disposable, so why put any effort into the movie's characters, story or mythos? Here's a note for those same filmmakers: when you do that, you get a movie like I Am Number Four. And considering how poorly this movie turned out, maybe you'll think twice if I Am Number Five ever comes to pass.
I Am Number Four is presented in 1.85:1 1080p hi-definition and looks very good. It appears as if all the effort was sucked from the story and finished film and set into this attractive, colorful picture. The detail present here is excellent, especially during daytime scenes. A lot of the film takes place in darkened corridors and evening settings (to save a bit on special effects, I'm sure) and often displays a great depth and texture found in the best Blu-ray transfers. Overall this is a great presentation for a very mediocre film.
The soundtrack is presented in a thrilling DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio mix that will blow your speakers away. Much like the video presentation, this sound mix is a great mix of explosions, Trevor Rabin's good but generic film score and crisp, clear dialogue. I don't have any complaints about either the video or audio presentations—the work put into this disc shows and should please fans of the film.
Fans get only a few extra features with this release of I Am Number Four, including around nineteen minutes of deleted scenes ("Extended Strangers in Paradise," "Sam's Mom," "Worth Mentioning," "Power Prank," "Trying to Connect" and "Extended Warsaw Basement"); a short featurette titled "Becoming Number Six" featuring Teresa Palmer; around three minutes of bloopers; trailers for the films Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, I Am Number Four and Real Steel and finally a digital copy and bonus DVD version of the film.
I Am Number Four is like eating a plate of beets that have had all the color and taste extracted from them. After you're done, there's nothing left but the knowledge you just digested something, but couldn't care less what it was. The best news I have for you is that Touchstone's work on this disc is at least top notch.
I Am Number Four is an apt title, 'cause I can think of at least three
other movies I'd rather sit through.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
• Deleted Scenes
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.