BOX OFFICE REVIEW: I Am Number Four
Pittacus Lore's novel takes to the big screen in this sci-fi teen romance...
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The latest teen book series to receive the big screen treatment is none other than Pittacus Lore's I Am Number Four. The first story in a proposed six book series, the young adult novel introduces readers to an intriging, exciting and romantic sci-fi yarn which is at once both cliche in its character's relationships and original in its design and story.
While I have not personally read the book, I do know one thing: Piccacus Lore is actually the pen name for a pair of writers: first-timer Jobie Hughes and veteran, best-selling author James Frey, who many consider a fraud after it was discovered a number of major plot points in his supposed autobiography A Million Little Pieces were untrue. No matter, A Million Little Pieces is a work of writing brilliance and James Frey can spin a tale well worth reading, true or not. This may be at least one of the reasons why the book I Am Number Four spent six weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list, had its movie rights sold almost immediately and even had the film into production before the book was published.
Now, thanks to an adaptation from writing partners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville and Spiderman 2) and direction from D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye and Disturbia), Dreamworks has brought the book to life on the big screen. Telling the tale of teenage alien John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), who is anything but normal and everything but ready for what he's about to experiance. One of the last of his kind, he is stranded on earth and essentially forced to defend earth from the same evil which devistated his home planet. His protector, Henri (Timothy Olyphant) has helped raise John, ensuring the pair stay off the grid and invisible to the prying eyes of the evil Morgadorian warriors who stalk John, seeking his death and the death of those like him. After an incident forces them to relocate (yet again), the pair find themselves in Paradise, Ohio where John falls in love with hometown sweetheart Sarah Hart (Dianna Agron), who captivates him with her simple ways, charm, and beauty. However, when the Morgs find John in Paradise, it's only a matter of time before trouble ensues...
While I really wanted to dislike the film for its seemingly contrived characters and unoriginal character develoment, I have to say I'm more intrigued by the possibilities of this story growing into something truly amazing. The acting is as expected with Petyfer and Agron having plenty of on-screen chemistry. So what if it was like watching Glee? Glee is a fan-favorite TV show and is attracting plenty of viewers...
Personally I think some of the film's best acting is done by Olyphant, who does his best to be portray Henri, John's guardian, in a serious, soft-spoken way. As a well-meaning warrior guardian tasked with protecting one of the most valuable treasures in the universe, John, Henri has a daunting job that means death is potentially waiting around every corner; and yet, he's somewhat lighthearted when the worst is presented. Likewise, Teresa Palmer, who plays Number 6, is brilliant. Her carefree, kick-butt attitude hides a scared young woman who'll throw herself into danger in order to rid the earth of the Morg's evil. If a sequel is made (and I'd personally love to see the story develop more on-screen), Palmer would hopefully be featured as the second book in the series is entitled The Power of Six.
As an entertaining, teen sci-fi romance, I Am Number Four delivers on all accounts. It's got pretty faces, a teenage alien boy with amazing powers falling for a sweet, innocent teenage girl, intriguing monsters (it's almost worth the price of admission to watch John's alien dog/chimera battle it out with the Morg's monster pets), and plenty of eye-candy action. The only major disappointments are the cliche character relationships (John and Henri) which seem torn right out of Star Wars. While this isn't enough to avoid the film, it's enough to bother.
No doubt aimed at teens and fans of the book series, I Am Number Four is a decent action film with an intriging story that deserves a look. Were I sure the film's sequel would be made, I'd highly recommend I Am Number Four to all sci-fi film fans; unfortunately, I don't think it'll perform well enough at the box office to warrent the sequel, which means fans who actually enjoy the movie will be forced to pick up the sequel book to find out what happens next.
I Am Number Four stars Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Timothy Olyphant, and Teresa Palmer, was produced by Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg, directed by D.J. Caruso from a script by Al Gough and Miles Millar and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and for language.
- Jess C. Horsley