Ever since Superman landed in Kansas, Earth has become the dumping ground for alien orphans, refugees and technology beyond human comprehension to hide from evil alien races. The thinking is that no other alien in their right mind would want to come to a planet which produced both the Jersey Shore and the Twilight saga, thus making Earth the perfect hiding place. The aliens are always wrong though and the bad guys show up anyway searching for their lost “whatever” and Earth becomes the host of galactic Jerry Springer. I Am Number Four does the impossible by making this old concept worth watching again.
I Am Number Four follows John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) and his bodyguard Henri (Timothy Olyphant). The two are refugees from an invaded planet where Pettyfer would’ve been one of his planet’s guardians due to his cool super powers. The pair travels the world hiding from the aliens that invaded their home world (who look like Voldemort at a Slipknot concert), which has already killed off three other refugees. They end up in a little town full of cliché’ high school students where Olyphant tries to figure out where some pal of his ended up and Pettyfer falls in love with Dianna Agron from Glee.
While Pettyfer is in town he manages to make friends with a misunderstood UFO enthusiast and school loser (Callan McAuliffe). He also becomes bitter enemies with the town’s stereotypical bully/captain of the football team, all while discovering his super powers. The evil aliens eventually show up and it’s up to all of them, as well as an Australian chick from his home planet, and a beagle, to beat the bad guys.
This is one of those rare films that can take concepts that have been done to death in every medium imaginable and put an entirely fresh coat of paint on them. This is not the first time a generically handsome teenager has figured out he has super powers. Smallville devoted 10 seasons to the concept. What makes it fresh is the feel of the character. Pettyfer has to constantly use a program to erase his image from every known website, and in an age where everyone is big into Facebook, it means that he always has to remain invisible while jumping from town to town, thus losing every friend he makes. McAuliffe is the stereotypical picked on teen, but it turns out that he lost his father in a presumed alien abduction and believes fully that his father is out there with ET and Spock, so of course he’s going to be picked on. It has this genuine feel to it, with some surprisingly great acting from a cast of lesser-known actors.
Of course with super hero aliens come fight scenes, which I Am Number Four has in spades. Unlike Transformers, which was just one long fight scene with clips of people talking spliced in, the fighting here compliments the story incredibly well. The visual effects are great without being overdone, making it apparent between that and the lesser-known cast that the budget was spent mostly on the writing.
I Am Number Four’s only real flaw is that it doesn’t end conclusively. The plot sets up that this is part of some sort of series; at least one sequel is needed. The good part though is that after watching it you actually want them to make another. It’s hard to make a movie where the audience wants more. The Last Airbender for example, taught the world that an entire franchise could be crashed in this process. But this is one of the rare occasions where setting up for a sequel actually works.
I Am Number Four is rated PG-13 for awesome fight scenes and some people getting disintegrated.