“I Am Number Four” ranked low

By Kevin Romani


By Kevin Romani        

Collegian Correspondent

After viewing “I Am Number Four,” it should come as no surprise to the audience that producer Michael Bay (“Transformers,” “Pearl Harbor”) was involved in the making of this film. With young, sexy lead actors, an MTV-influenced dialogue and a story lacking any depth or substance, the only missing Bay staple is a military subplot.

“I Am Number Four” follows an alien teenager (newcomer Alex Pettyfer) from the planet Lorien. The Mogadorians – an opposing alien race – destroyed Lorien, and are now on the hunt to murder the nine survivors who were sent to hide on Earth.  Numbers one, two and three have already been taken care of, which makes the title character next. Taking the alias John Smith (a great way to blend in) and under the guidance of his “protector” Henri, number four finds himself in Ohio trying to stay under the radar.

Director D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia,” “Eagle Eye”) has been criticized for making unoriginal films, and “Number Four” is no exception.  The opening sequence is action-packed and engaging, as little is known other than that a murder (later revealed to be number three) has taken place.  The following scene, however, is more revealing as to what the tone will be for the remainder of the film. Smith is seen riding a jet ski with a group of friends and taking part in outrageous stunts as cheesy pop music is played in the background. Not a very compelling way to introduce a character that is supposed to feel isolated from the rest of the world.

Smith is a familiar character to this decade’s film and television audience.  He may have unique powers that have not been seen before this movie, but from a pure character standpoint he brings nothing new to the table.  Just like Clark Kent in “Smallville” or Peter Parker in “Spiderman,” he is somewhat of a high school delinquent with extraordinary abilities trying to “find himself.”  Yawn.

It’s difficult to care if Smith lives or dies, because the consequences of his death are unknown.  Of course it would be a downer for the audience if their hero died, but in this film, it’s unclear as to what that means for the future of Lorien.  Were these nine sent to start some sort of colony to keep the race alive, or do they have a greater purpose?  The film never says.  All the filmmakers seem to want the audience to know is that Smith is good because he is hot and the Mogadorians are bad because they wear all black and have gills.           

The secondary characters in the film are just as bland as Smith. Henri, played by Timothy Olyphant (“Justified,” “Live Free or Die Hard”) is nothing more than a plot device for the story.  He has no significant qualities to him, as he does nothing but serve as the archetypal mentor to John Smith. Kevin Durand (“Lost,” “3:10 to Yuma”) plays the leader of the Mogadorians, and does the best with what is given to him. He is supposed to be menacing, but it is difficult to understand his weird accent that is more comical than it is threatening. It’s hard to see the character as evil, because the audience has no idea what his motives are. Durand is able to provide a few moments of comedy that the rest of the film lacks, but overall, Caruso wasted these actors’ talents.

One bright spot in the film was Dianna Agron (“Glee”). She plays the cliché, artistic love interest to the hero. Agron does the best job out of all the younger actors, and does so very subtly. Even with nothing to do other than serve as the love interest, Agron is able to add some fun to the role, which makes her a believable and compelling character.           

For some reason, the screenwriters did not think the audience would be interested in knowing any back story for this film.  Smith gives a brief synopsis in the first few minutes via voice-over narration that provides only the very basics. But questions remain. Why did the Mogadorians destroy Lorien? Why do they need to kill the survivors so badly? Apparently, covering this information was not as important as using the “teenager with extraordinary abilities trying to live a normal, high school life” story line. “Spiderman,” “Smallville,” or “Twilight,” anyone?  Answers to these questions would have provided a motive for the characters and purpose to this story. This would have provided tension and suspense that the film was sorely missing. 

There was a real opportunity for the filmmakers to explore interesting science fiction themes and raise philosophical questions through the motives of the Mogadorians and Loriens. Maybe as the story progressed, it would be revealed that the Mogadorians did not only personify evil but actually had some justification for destroying Lorien. Perhaps Smith learns that his ancestors took part in actions that were unethical with the Mogadorians, and he has to decide the difference between right and wrong himself. Sadly, we will never see this part of an otherwise predictable story.         

Kevin Romani can be reached [email protected]