I am number four

Director: D. J. Caruso
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron and Timothy Oliphant
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Runtime: 105 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Science fiction themes and violence

As this science-fiction cum high school romance for teenage audiences continued on, I found that my inner adolescent was touched and I rather enjoyed it.

By now, there must be theses being written all over the world on the popularity of the teenage action/romance movies and what the ingredients need be for this popularity. The Twilight series comes to mind while watching this one, though ethereal vampires are much less exciting than the rugged Number Four (John Smith among his many other names). 2010 saw Tomorrow When the War Began. I am Number Four could stand some comparisons with the battles against intruding troops, real in Tomorrow, Aliens in Number Four. Director D.J. Caruso made some adult thriller like The Salton Sea and Taking Sides. However, he moved into this current genre with Eagle Eye where the young Shia LaBoeuf is being pursued by omni-surveillant enemies.

Apart from an eerie opening where menacing aliens dispose of a young man, the early part of the film is high school stuff, parties on Florida islands, high school hijinks, rivalries, bullying, attractions and misunderstandings and a potential rotter in a smug campus villain (whose father is the sheriff). You know there is going to be action, but this preamble goes on for rather a while, establishing character, of course, and setting up the final confrontation.

Actually, this is rather like one of those stories from the past which have Soviet sleepers nicely ensconced in small town America waiting for the day that they are activated. But, this time, the sleepers are isolated youngsters from another planet, ten in all, who have the power to resist the evil aliens from their planet who are ambitious for, yes, world domination. The opening of the film is the death of Number Three, so our story is about Number Four and his guardian.

Number Four is played with some vigour by Alex Pettyfer. He is fit and strong-jawed, the opposite of Robert Pattinson’s pasty and vapid vampire, Edward. It is easy to see why Sarah, whose hobby is photography, should fall for him. He also befriends Sam (Callum McCauliffe) whose father has disappeared, probably abducted by the vicious aliens who felt that his researches were getting too close to them. Timothy Olyphant is Number Four’s very serious mentor and guardian. And there is a nice dog (whose inner monster is revealed).

Then, the action starts, rather computer-game like, but quite engrossing in its expected way. To the rescue comes an Amazonian heroine, blasting everyone in her way – these youngsters have increasingly superhuman powers (think The Fantastic Four). She is Jane Doe, Number Six, played with all stops out by Teresa Palmer. She sounds and looks like a young Naomi Watts (as she has in her other screen appearances) but could have called herself Nellie Melba or some such because she has retained her Australian accent – great to see the Australian alien coming to the rescue of the American alien, and female to boot. It becomes a touch ludicrous when animal monsters appear (including the pet dog) and scuffle, growl and bite to the death. But, monsters and monstrous aliens all immediately disintegrate when they are destroyed, so there is not much blood around.

Based on a novel by Pittacus Lore (now, there’s a name), this adventure has the potential for a movie franchise. Spoiler: the good aliens go up to Number Ten!

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