Stephanie Meyer is the Antichrist. Because of her damned formula of “girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a freak (albeit a very attractive freak), boy and girl fall in love and decide to have demented demon babies (yes, I went as far as to spoil the end of the Twilight series — sue me),” we, the educated consumers, are forced to endure this seemingly endless plight of underdeveloped characters and three-day stubbles. And it just so happens that this week, we have the pleasure of yet another Twilight copycat releasing, but this time it’s by the director of Disturbia and is even produced by Michael Bay!
D.J. Caruso’s I Am Number Four operates on three levels: A high school romance, a science fiction thriller, and a movie with a dreaded nonsensical “third act” (this particular portion being so poorly executed that it deserves its own separate criticism). Needless to say, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, and Marti Noxon’s big-screen adaptation of the Pittacus Lore (the pen name of James Frey and Jobie Hughes) novel (which was, of course, aimed at the same audience that swooned over every book that Meyer has released thus far) is horrendous — the definition of stinker.
Don’t misunderstand me, I Am Number Four isn’t an exact replica, but replace vampires with aliens and you have the entire basis of the film’s plot. John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) is a seemingly ordinary young man; he attends school, lives with his father, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), and owns an iPhone. However, if there’s one thing that’s suspicious about the Smiths, it’s their nomadic lifestyles. Moving from one place to another, the duo finally settles in Paradise, Ohio, where John meets Sarah (Dianna Agron from Glee — OMG!), an awkward photo-fanatic and the ex-girlfriend of Mark (Jake Abel), a typical jock, right down to the cliché comb over. Nevertheless, John and Sarah hit it off — much like Bella and Edward — but in this case, not only does John have to worry about having his secret exposed, but also the torment of Mark and his drones.
What’s his secret? He’s a Mogadorian, and so is Henri, who isn’t even John’s real father but rather a guardian assigned to protect the young’un. John, you see, is one of the nine survivors of his native planet — all of which have acquired “legacies,” mystical powers that have been left over by their parents. The catch is someone is killing off these escapees who had evaded the rebel attack that caused the extinction of their people. And one-by-one, they drop like flies, and it turns out that John is next in line.
To be quite honest, I, unlike the majority of film critics (who are arguably more pompous and wrinkly than I’ll ever be) found the entire relationship between John and Sarah to be tolerable — it wasn’t fantastic, hell, it wasn’t even decent, but it did its job. And despite it being horribly underwritten, Pettyfer and Agron are fair in their chemistry. Olyphant, however, makes the best of a bad situation, and is disputably the best that I Am Number Four has to offer.
But oh sweet Jesus how they messed up the Sci-Fi elements; essentially, John finds out that he can use something very similar to “the force,” which also grants him increased endurance and durability. That’s all fine and dandy, except for that there is never any real threat to him: His enemies, dressed in Gothic-garb and resembling John Malkovich (except for the tattooed head, razor sharp teeth, and gills on their face, of course), although armed with pulse rifles, choose to do their dealings over the phone and drive compact cars, even squeezing in a chance to scare a couple of little kids half-to-death.
With all that in mind, the third act is inevitable — it’s the one moment of absolute terror that ruins any of the film’s remaining credibility. In this CGI-fest, these “Malkovichians” (as I’ll call them) cause millions in damage while John struggles with a couple of oversized banshees. Toss in another Mogadorian, “Number Six” (Teresa Palmer), a no-excuses gun-virtuoso and some innocent bystanders and there’s the film’s climax. It doesn’t help either, that the special effects are rather putrid and the gun-fights are so sloppily done that it’s hard to decipher what’s happening on-screen, but at that point, I don’t think I even wanted or cared to.
So the worst part about I Am Number Four must be the fact that it’s just the beginning of a proposed franchise. With Meyer’s influence spreading so rapidly, it’s no wonder why some theorists still believe that the world will end in 2012!