REVIEW: I Am Number Four
kerry67's review of the Sci-Fi film "I Am Number 4"
I went into this movie with quite a bit of trepidation, as well as some preconceptions about what I would see on the screen. I am a lifelong fan of Science Fiction (capitalized on PURPOSE, beotches!), and I am always happy to see a new idea get some traction in Hollywood, but everything I had seen and read regarding this movie had given me cause to fear that this onewas going to go down harder than a prom queen on Vicodin. But were my fears justified?
The story opens with the attack and killing of a pair of young men living in an extremely remote location (complete with mosquito netting!), after which we are introduced to the titular hero who is frolicking in the surf when he gets a VERY uncomfortable sunburn. It turns out, he is one of the last remaining members of an alien race whose planet was destroyed by an invading alien race. Originally nine in total, the first three have been gradually killed off over the last couple of decades by that same marauding alien species. Each of them is accompanied by a Protector, an adult of the same alien race as the numbered teens who act as their... well, protectors. They are actually sort of the kids bodyguards/surrogate parents/personal "Obi Wan." Number 4's protector begins erasing all evidence of their presence so they can relocate. On the discovery that he is next on the bad guys' hit list, 4 does what any teenager would do in that situation: he whines about how it's not fair that he can't go to school and decides to go anyway! Yeah, just like a regular teen.
Overall, the performances were pretty good. I believed in the characters as they were portrayed, even though I wanted to slap the bejeezus out of that kid half the time. The movie really loses steam once 4 enters his new high school. We are presented with all the old high school stereotypes, including the d-bag BMOC, the smart but socially inept outcast, and, of course, the pretty, artsy girl who used to date the aforementioned BMOC. You know she's a cool chick because she always carries a camera.(The rule in teen movies about the cool guy is that his hair must be slightly unkempt and his room must be decorated with Ramones posters.) This group of cliches interact exactly as they have since time immemorial, and take up a solid third of the movie doing...well, not much. Number 4 does everything he can to avoid detection by the evil aliens...wait. No, he doesn't. See, as they mature, the Nine (now six) develop super powers called "legacies." Number 4's powers involve his palms turning into halogen flashlights with repulsor fields. (A quick aside: a newly discovered ability that involves a teen boy being initially unable to control what comes shooting out of his palms seems like a pretty obvious metaphor for puberty to me.) Well, number four decides to stand up for the weak one day with predictable results.
First, the good. The villains are fantastic. These guys are evil, and proud of it. They resemble a cross between Michael Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor and a manta ray. Watching them revel in their wickedness is truly a joy to behold. These guys, it is explained, do not conquer to colonize, they conquer to destroy. They are the ultimate ethnic cleansers, but they are not motivated by a quest for purity or even xenophobia. Genocide, for these guys, is just a plain old good time.
Similarly, Number 6 is an absolute delight. Although she appears sporadically throughout the film, when she makes her entrance proper in the final confrontation, she takes control of the movie. I would pay good money see "I am Number 6." Her appearance livens up the movie noticeably, and the chemistry between 4 and 6 is evident. Whether this is a function of the actors or part of the intentional direction of the movie setting up possible sequels I don't know. Either way, as soon as Number 6 arrives, Artsy Photography Chick is completely irrelevant.
The action sequences are VERY well done. The climactic battle contains everything I need in a sci-fi brawl with the future of the planet at stake. Number 6 goes full-on Terminatrix, and Number 4 looks like he's enjoying himself for the first time in the whole movie. There are energy weapons, hard-core martial arts and parkour-ish movent all over the place.Oh, and big, giant bat-lizard thingys. God, I love giant bat-lizard thingys, and think their inclusion could improve almost any movie.
The bad. The middle third of the movie has far too much film stock devoted to Number 4 sitting around and looking mopey, high school class struggles, and a burgeoning romance that, now stay with me folks, is between members of DIFFERENT SPECIES! Maybe it's the science nerd in me, but even if I accept that a whole species of beings from another planet look EXACTLY like human beings (Maglite palms notwithstanding) I balk at them being able to successfully...ahem...cross-pollinate. Without at least some off-hand reference to a panspermia theory or some such, this point sticks in my craw. Leaving the science out of it for a moment, however, the amount of time our superpowered alien spends mooning over this girl is just...well, it's just tedious.
There are a number of head-scratchers, as well. Why do these kids have to be killed in a specific order? Alien OCD? Asperger's Syndrome? Are these bad guys numerologists? And why, when intergalactic killers are slaughtering your brethren, and you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are next on their To-Do list, would you completely ignore the advice of your highly trained military bodyguard and insist on going, of all places, to high school? I guess teenagers are idiots across all cultures.
So what's the bottom line? This is an enjoyable enough movie most of the time, so long as you don't think too much about it (a tall order for some of us, granted). It is clearly aimed at the Tween Girl demographic (or Emographic, if you prefer), and contains all the moon-eyed angst you would expect from that type of movie. the first and third acts are good, and if you go refill your soda or popcorn during act two, you won't miss much. Well, okay, a couple of neat scenes of the villainous aliens tracking Number 4 and preparing to unleash Hell are sprinkled in among the interminable scenes of moodiness and juvenile romance. 6.5 out of 10.
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