The latest from director DJ Caruso (the enjoyable "Eagle Eye") and producer Michael Bay, "I Am Number Four" did not quite meet box office expectations when it was released last Winter - possibly due to trailers that - I think - weren't terribly clear. The movie, written by "Smallville" co-creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, does feel a little bit like it could be another CW show along the same lines as "Supernatural" and the recently concluded "Smallville", but is still mildly enjoyable as a big-screen effort. The film stars Alex Pettyfer as John, a teen whose life has been spent on the run from mysterious enemies, with the help of a handler (played by Timothy Olyphant.)
John is - as it quickly becomes clear - not exactly a normal teenager. As a voice-over early on reveals, he's an alien from another planet, who has escaped to Earth to hide out from evil creatures (the amusingly named Mogadorians) who had wrecked his home planet years ago. 9 other children also escaped, and have lived separate lives on Earth. However, the evil aliens have taken numbers 1 through 3 out of the picture, and John is number 4 (hence the title.) Coming to a new school, he quickly spots a beautiful classmate, Sarah (Dianna Agron) and runs into a number of other characters (the nerd, the bully, the...) who are unfortunately all too familiar.
The movie proceeds through the expected, with John running into a rivalry over Sarah and dealing with school drama until it becomes apparent he's been tracked down by the evil aliens once again. At that point, the movie pretty much forgets about what has come before and becomes an action flick, with the introduction of a number 6 (Teresa Palmer), who's rather skilled in battle. There's one main issue with "I Am Number Four", and it's the writing. While I haven't read the book by Pittacus Lore, but the movie seems to have removed any sort of backstory. There's a lot of discussion about the aliens and all the goings on, but little discussion about the hows and whys. I still don't get who the bad aliens are, and the movie's shift from high school soap opera to sci-fi with lasers and a badass alien girl with an Australian accent is awkward. Um, did I mention the dog that can shape-shift?
Still, while Caruso has done better, "Four" does have some positives, as Agron is enjoyable and creates a bit more than a one-dimensional character. Palmer's performance is enjoyably ridiculous, but at least she appears to be having fun. The story is unfortunately thin, but the sci-fi portions - while not without flaws - give the story some momentum. It's too bad, as the core idea of the story is interesting, but the story's primary focus seems to be the "Twilight"-esque love story between human and alien.
Still, once the movie gets going, there's some nifty action sequences. I was particularly amused when John forced a police car to stop and then pushed it back with his powers. In the background, a random extra goes, "That was awesome!" The movie's football field conclusion (followed by a not-too-subtle hint of a sequel) is a little disappointing, but given the material, the finale's location is to be expected.
Overall, "I Am Number Four" is largely geared towards the target audience and teens looking for a mixture of sci-fi and romance will probably find it enjoyable. Personally, I found it flawed, but it was watchable and I appreciated elements of the picture. Still, the story had potential to have wider appeal than the teen/"Twilight" aaudience, who is very clearly the target audience for this picture.
VIDEO: Touchstone presents "I Am Number Four" in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) and the results are quite nice. The presentation looked consistently crisp and well-defined, with good small object detail and clarity in some of the film's more dimly-lit sections. A couple of minor instances of edge enhancement were spotted, but the presentation was otherwise clean and detailed, with no print flaws or additional concerns. Colors looked a bit on the subdued side, but appeared accurately presented by the transfer. Flesh tones looked spot-on, as well.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 presentation wasn't a consistent assault, but during the film's action sequences, surrounds were expertly used to deliver sound effects, ambience and score. The teen drama portion during the middle of the film certainly narrows the soundstage down to a more dialogue-driven presentation, but the audio is still highly enjoyable overall. Audio quality is first-rate, with clear dialogue, bassy effects and well-recorded score.
EXTRAS: Deleted scenes, "Becoming Number Six" featurette and bloopers.
Final Thoughts: "I Am Number Four" is flawed, but I still found it watchable and aspects were enjoyable. The Blu-Ray presentation offers next-to-no extras, but very good audio/video quality.
The Film B-