There are filmmakers without much personal style or perceptible storytelling interests. Not every director is an auteur – nor should directors be harshly judged for simply delivering something that’s just entertaining (entertaining is hard enough) – but director D.J. Caruso (Suburbia, Eagle Eye) is a workman to a fault. That in mind, when you partner him with three writers who have specialized in television, and with the open-ended storytelling that comes from adapting a series of books, you get a non-film like I Am Number Four, featuring non-stars Alex Pettyfer, Teresa Palmer and Dianna Argon. It’s not terrible, but it feels more like a pilot than a movie. My review of the Blu-ray follows after the jump.
Pettyfer stars as John Smith, an alien who is the number four referenced in the title. He has a guardian (Timothy Olyphant), and any time he does anything remotely alien they leave town and destroy all evidence of their past behind them. They are called Loriens and are being hunted by the Mogodorians, who killed off the rest of their race, save for the remaining children who can supposedly stop the bad guys from completing their genocide through their magical, mystical, undefined powers.
This, though, is awkward because we don’t really know how many there are – there are at least six in total as Teresa Palmer plays number six – or why they have to be killed in order. There’s no sense of the rules of the universe, but that isn’t so problematic in the scheme of things – or at least it wouldn’t be if the film were more compelling.
After moving to a new city, John meets the bullied Sam (Callan McAuliffe), and hottie Sarah (Dianna Argon), the cute girl who doesn’t quite fit in after she left her boyfriend – stereotypical cock of the walk – Mark (Jake Abel). Mark and his friends pick on Sam, John gets in the middle, and shows himself proficient physically, while also coming to realize his otherworldly powers. Sam unintentionally puts himself in the middle of an ongoing feud between Sarah and Mark, which must eventually escalate to violence. John’s supposed to be invisible, which is hard when Sarah likes taking pictures that Henri must erase from her website. Henri wants constant updates on his location, and threatens to revoke some of John’s privileges if he doesn’t comply, but John never seems to comply, so that threat never amounts to much.
The film hits what can be called its groove when Sarah and John start to date. Their story is modeled partly on Twilight (John’s alien race mate for life), but the two have chemistry. This is interrupted by the evil Mogodorians (headed by Kevin Durand), because they’re good at stalking and have no discernible goals.
The love story is what makes the movie not terrible, and it’s the core of the film, though it’s toeing its foot in the franchise pool to the point of annoyance. There’s such small-minded thinking going on that the actors wouldn’t be out of place on network shows (nothing against Argon and Olyphant, who are TV stars), and when the film finally unleashes the big end fight sequence, it’s slightly larger than most things put on the small screen.
Sadly, Olyphant – as much of a TV actor as he is, and as much as both Deadwood and Justified make him look like a movie star – has nothing to do here but be concerned. I loved what Olyphant did with his supporting character in The Girl Next Door, this has none of those dimensions. Meanwhile, Teresa Palmer’s character hits exactly one note. Palmer looks good doing it, but that’s all there is. And that’s the film. Waiting for good things to happen that all seem to be coming in a sequel that will most likely never happen.
Buena Vista’s Blu-ray presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD surround. The transfer for the film is note perfect (it came out earlier this year, so it better be). Extras include six deleted scenes with direct D.J. Caruso introducing them (19 min.), a feature on Teresa Palmer’s character called “Becoming Number Six” (12 min.) and bloopers (3 min.). Though the disc opens with bonus trailers, there is no section for them.