Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Am Number 4

Based on the serialized novel of the same name that incidentally came out fairly recently. Even more interestingly the novel was ghost written by Jobie Hughes and James Frey under the name Pittacus Lore. If you know your books or at least your scandals you would have recognized the name, James Frey. He's the guy who wrote the semi-fictional-autobiographical book about his life as a man dealing with alcoholism and drug abuse and the 12 step program that brought him out of the mess called A Million Little Pieces. The book was huge and got a big boost from Oprah, but unfortunately he made a lot of it up, creating a scandal where Oprah was forced to unleash a can of shame on his ass. But since then I guess the guy has been busy, apparently I Am Number 4 spent 6 weeks on the NY Times Best Sellers list for young adult science fiction. I've never read any of his books or knew much about the guy, but I guess given the early hype for this movie, he's found a way to bounce back. Even if he had to use a pseudonym.
The story is about young John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), a young teen who looks normal but is in actuality an alien from another planet. He's one of nine special children from the doomed planet, Lorien that are being hunted down one by one by the Mogodorians. The evil aliens responsible for the destruction of their homeworld. These Mogodorians have found them on Earth and have killed the first three already. John is number 4. He is sheltered by another of his race, Henri (Timothy Oliphant), who isn't given much to work with playing the guardian/wise old sage role. But given that he's the only truly credible actor in this production, it's extremely necessary. So the two of them John and Henri move from place to place, try to keep hidden, in order to evade detection from the Mogodorians. They find themselves in Paradise, Ohio where John meets some new peeps, the local geek, named Sam (Callan McAuliffe) and the girl, John crushes on, Sarah (Dianna Agron). Of course the Mogodorians track him to Paradise and the battles ensue. But all this kid wants to do is live a normal life, unfortunately he has ugly fish face people trying to kill him and crazy hot light beams shooting out of his hands at random, what is a teenager to do?
I know I sound snarky about it but I had a good time with it, it made me feel like I was watching Smallville, which is probably a backhanded compliment. It's the same writers and it feels and sounds like a Superman rip-off. But the pacing isn't bad and the romance isn't too CW but it's pretty close. I hate to say it but I don't see this one making a successful series. Supposedly there are five more books in the works, and this movie left it wide open for more sequels. It just didn't feel original enough and I'm not sold on Pettyfer as a leading man. They should have given this to up and comer Teresa Palmer who fills in nicely as a bad ass number 6. She seemed to try a little too hard, but she has potential and did I mention that she's smoking hot. They left her backstory a bit of a mystery, although it could be more meat for the next one. It was frustrating that they didn't really give her more to do, but I guess the less is more approach is what made her interesting in the first place, so in hindsight it was probably a good idea.
For a simple serialized sci-fi story it wasn't too bad, but I wouldn't shout from the rooftops about it either. The special effects were ok, they were pretty much like Smallville in the first hour or so but the final battle was a little more impressive. I think the series as a whole could be interesting if they put a little more meat in there and they need to try and avoid the similarities between Superman and John cause there are times where it just looks so blatant it's almost criminal. The doomed planet stuff, the I'm different and don't belong thing.  The addition of learning powers, which he laments they aren't a gift--yada yada yada, you get the picture. If you want to see a fairly simple story with some pretty people and some decent action then I Am Number 4 is up your alley.
Grade: 2 Buckets


GregM said...

Jeff--fun review. Re: James Frey--it gets worse. Apparently Frey, not content with an inability to distinguish between fiction and non-fiction, decided that he'd go around, offer terrible (truly, truly awful) publishing contracts to starving MFA students who haven't been properly trained in the biz. He's trying to set up a whole factory of underpaid writers he can glom onto. Jobie Hughes was totally screwed out of profits from the film, and had to get a lawyer so he could even take public credit for the work.

Jeff said...

Thanks Greg, yeah that actually makes a lot of sense about Frey. This guy seems pretty skeevy to me. I hope Jobie Hughes took him to the cleaners and got his fair share.

I'm actually surprised that DC didn't try to sue him too, especially after the Smallville guys made it even more evident that this is a Superman riff. But I still think there are some interesting things here they can improve this series with to take it in a different direction from Superman the question is will they do that?