February 18, 2011

If you wanted to make Twilight but without the personality, you would have a film akin to the cynical cash-grab that is I Am Number Four.  Sure, Twilight‘s personality is creepy and misogynistic, but it’s genuinely offering something to a particular audience even though I find that “thing” (idolization of possessive stalkers) repulsive.  I Am Number Four, on the other hand, is a vapid shell of a presumptuous franchise.  The film never bothers to establish compelling characters or compelling situations.  Every time I Am Number Four could do something interesting or inventive, it scurries away to the most predictable, bland solution it can find.  There’s nothing redeeming about I Am Number Four, from the script, to the action, to the visuals, to the performances, to presumably the craft services.  It rarely even shows the courtesy to be laughably bad.  It simply carries on and on and on and assumes the audience is enraptured in the adventures of dull, attractive teenagers.

“John Smith” (Pettyfer) is a refugee alien whose planet was destroyed by a race of evil aliens known as the Mogadorians.  Accompanied by his stern, paternal guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant), John is “Number Four” of nine aliens who escaped his homeworld but is now being tracked on Earth by the Mogadorians.  This information isn’t shown to us or relayed in an inventive fashion, but rather through John’s bored-sounding monologue as he rides in a car with Henri on their way to a new fake life.  This detached, unimaginative description sets the tone for the tiresome movie the audience will be enduring for the next 110 minutes.


I Am Number Four is devoid of almost any humor, but it does get in an unintentionally hilarious moment when John, feeling cooped up and wanting to go to school, is told by Henri to “keep a low profile.”  So what does John do when he gets on campus?  He throws up his hoodie.  It’s a smart move because now no one will notice the GQ model wandering the halls of the local small town high school.

Unfortunately for John, the hoodie can’t stop the emergence of his powers, namely that he has flashlights for hands.  Henri explains that the nine who escaped the planet have superpowers and that John will learn to manage not only his flashlight hands, but also his newfound super-speed, strength, and agility.  John’s reaction to all of this should be, “Wait—I’m not only ridiculously handsome, but I also have superpowers?  It’s like I’m Justin Timberlake!”  Instead, he continues to mope and grimace while striking up a friendship with the school’s resident bullied kid (Callan McAuliffe) and gorgeous artsy chick (Dianna Agron).


As John deals with the burden of being hot, having superpowers, and receiving the attentions of a drop-dead beautiful bombshell, he’s also being hunted by the “Mogs” (which just made me think of the adorable creatures from the Final Fantasy series, but my nerdiness is no fault of the film’s) as well as a fellow refugee (Teresa Palmer).  Rather than develop the Mogs into an interesting species, they’re simply The Bad Guys.  They have pointy teeth, gills in their face, big black eyes, and enjoy killing.  Their hobbies include mocking humans and scaring fat children.  Their leader (Kevin Durand) doesn’t even get a name.  He’s simply credited as “Mogadorian Commander”.  As for Palmer’s character, she only exists to participate in the giant set piece at the end of the movie.  She is “Number Six” but “Generic Bad-Ass Chick #6784″ would fit just as well.

The movie is loaded with problems.  The effects look cheap, the pacing is a chore, and the direction is uninspired.  But the biggest problem is that I Am Number Four has no characters.  It’s difficult to fault the actors when they have absolutely nothing to work with.  Characters need to have flaws to make them more relatable.  There needs to be some kind of shading to let us know that while John may be from the planet of the Super-powered Handsomes, he’s not perfect.  Instead, the script chooses to waste time explaining how a girl as beautiful as Agron wouldn’t be insanely popular and getting hit on all the time (the answer: she used to be a cheerleader, but got into photography and her ex-boyfriend spread nasty rumors about her.  Also, she wears ugly hats.)


Rather than give us interesting characters in a worthwhile story, I Am Number Four is too busy imagining the glorious franchise its about to open up.  Like the abysmal Vampire’s Apprentice, it’s so busy setting up future stories, it forgets to tell a good one in the movie we’re currently watching.  It’s clear that someone looked at Twilight, assumed that Hot Teenagers + Supernatural = Profit, and that’s how you get I Am Number Four.  If we’re lucky and America doesn’t let me down, there won’t be an I Am Number Four Saga.

Rating: F

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  • Ryan Ambrose

    Saw that coming from a mile away.

    If by any chance I happen to be forced to watch this film by someone pointing a gun at my skull and survive to tell the tale then I shall also spread the word.

    Love your reviews, Matt.

  • Bryan

    That’s dissapointing, I was hoping for something of substance from this because the previews looks great.

    • Destiny

      Stands back from the kbeyoard in amazement! Thanks!

    • gcycti

      H7S5ah qdegskkeqahi

  • white goodman

    Isn’t it the VAMPIRES ASSISTANT?

    Anyway that movie was ok because it was silly in a kid sort of way; this movie however sucks!

  • Duke Arlington

    Damn, I had some hope for this movie. Like with some substance. I liked “Push” but after reading this sounds like it’s worse than Twilight. And I haven’t seen Twilight nor will I ever.

    • Brandon


      Matt usually writes great reviews but this one I disagree with on every aspect. No one’s wrong for giving there opinion but I think you should still go check it out. I was worried about about a ton of action and no substance but the substance was there.

      If he’s comparing it to the book I have no argument b/c I never read it. I really enjoyed this film.

  • Brandon


    Are you serious? I don’t understand. You couldn’t have saw the same movie I saw because I loved it. It wasn’t perfect but was really entertaining and much better than twilight.

    You say you don’t like the characters? That’s one thing I did enjoy over everything else. And to be honest you’re coming across as a hater. The reason I say that is your mentioned in your review three or four times about how handsome the main star is on a negative end. Yet in the film that was not addressed once. He was never in the mirror looking at himself or grooming for hours. So there really was no point to bring that up. I mean people can’t help how they look.

    If we were to agree on something, I didn’t like how close the camera was for some of the shots during the end action sequence. And the villains did come of a bit goofy instead of just sinister bad-asses. So that I will give you.

    I thought this movie was just going to be a ton of ki blasts and flying and it wasn’t. It did focus on the characters. Yes, they could have explained what happened to their home planet with some visual introduction but the narrative was just fine for me. You know theres going to be a sequel and that illustration will be explained.

    I can’t believe you gave this an F but if that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. I give it a B+

    • Paycheck

      Wow Brandon REALLY LIKES THIS! Guess I should see it. Brandon can you you send me some of the money you got from James Frey/DJ Caruso to stick up for this piece of crap? Your tone is absolutely transparent. I wonder how much of a movie’s budget it allocated to ‘damage control’ on review blogs during opening weekend. Spread that positive word of mouth boys!

  • Brandon

    Yes, I did like it! It wasn’t perfect but still very entertaining. Unfortunately paycheck, I can’t give you any money from Frey/DJ Caruso, b/c they didn’t give me any. I shelled out my hard earned cash for this and I feel it’s was worth it. It just goes to show that people enjoy different things. I’m as shocked as you are paycheck that more people didn’t like it as you feel it was so terrible. Did you even see the film or are you just rambling? A

  • Paycheck

    No, I’m not interested in paint by numbers entertainment by committee. It’s an immediate turn off when something like this is created solely for the money grab. I like heart, soul and intelligence in the things I choose to take in in my spare time. Frey’s ‘tween factory churn fest’ is about as far away from smart as can be imagined (and I find it to be deceptive, along the lines as the other work he’s known for), that’s pretty consistently being proven by the reviews. 28% on RT sounds about right. Neither he nor Caruso will ever get a buck of mine, you know why? When you pay for a film/book like this you vote for it, and that vote just emboldens people like this to make more crap and sets the bar lower and lower. Plenty of people complain about all the bad films made in Hollywood, simple solution, consistently don’t see them and they eventually won’t get made.

    • Brandon

      I guess dude. You’re coming across as a troll and I’m dumb for entertaining it. Maybe I’m wrong though. It would be nice if you gave your opinion if you’ve actually seen the film. You haven’t so how can you call it crap? Doesn’t seem to fair to me. As for Rotten Tomatoes, I agree with them about 50% of the time. Sometimes not even that much b/c of a mistake they made in their reviews by over looking something that was clear as day. IT’S A GREAT FILM!

  • Jeff T.

    Yet another negative review by our pal Matt Goldberg. Like that’s a surprise!

    Anyway, I’ll join the other folks here who liked the movie. I liked it a lot, and I’m definitely in for a sequel. And let me just say that my theater was packed, and I mean packed big time!

    Hopefully the movie will be huge hit.

  • ang

    Im really sorry but i thought your review was worse than the movie. i really enjoyed it and hope there is a sequel. i thought the movie flowed really well from scene to scene. the action started right from the start and didnt have the normal slow buildup movies have. im glad i never listen to the critics reviews. the ones that get bad reviews i always end up enjoying.

  • Caitlyn

    I walked into the theatre a little Pissy and Depressed (normal teen Stuff) But came out Extremly happy.

    No it was not because there was a hot boy..Ok maybe a little but th acting in this movie I find is really well And you cant help but like the main character ( John ) I know Im young and not a real critique but don’t be so harsh. people who look at reviews arn’t looking for haters OR harsh wannabee’s we just want to know what the damn movie MAY be like.

    Everyone enjoys movies in a different way- Personaly I went to this movie becaus it looked good and it has Alex Pettyfer who I find is a great actor that’s never given enough to work with in his films. This movie had nothing to do with his looks. What do you expect him to do make himself ugly? Oh wait he’s doing that for his upcoming film “Beastly”. Sometimes you critiques want to much from a movie it’s there for your entertainment- that’s what it was made for. Not for you to be Snobbish. Do you have the money AND talent to make a movie? No. So stop judging so rudely

    Now about the movie.

    I LOVED it the whole time I was on the edge of my seat (I saw the movie in imax) the actors did the best they good which was DAMN GOOD! And I walked out wanting more and very happy. I haven’t seen a good movie Like I am Number 4 in a really long time.

    All in all It’s worth watching (Im buying it)

  • Mike

    Typical review, even saw reviews like this for Lord of the Rings return of the King which almost broke the world record for awards. Your review is garbage, however I strongly agree with the last part that it was way to busy setting up future story lines it took away from the current movie.

    I am number got an average rating of a B to a B+ from viewers. The movie cost roughly $59 million to create mainly thanks to not using mainstream actors such as Johnny Depp who is one of the most expensive current actors according to LA times.

    I am number for trailed in 3rd with $19.5 million and currently has $25+ million. So long as the movie breaks 65 million they expect a sequel. Probably be one of the few movies that gets reviews that it is better then the original in the case it does come out. For those of us who will never see a new air bender movie due to the $280 million cost will most likely get to see a second movie here.

    Reviewers rate this movie with an average of 2 out of 5 while it has a 4 out of 5 average on the three forums I moderate for with over 17,000 votes. Reviewer ratings according to LA times hold no value and are widely ignored by the general public as they get paid a penny a word to rant not speak intelligently.

    I am number four is expected to break what it cost in the usual 2 week period thanks to its low cost which might inspire a second.

    Statistical chance of breaking $70 million in theaters 65%, chance of sequel based on past movies like this about 35-45%. There was an article on this in wall street however I forget the exact stats so please remember don’t quote that last part but those are close.

    I rated the movie a B- for being a fun film however having 2 major pit falls.
    1. Looking forward to much
    2. Slightly to many cheesy moments

    And character development was fine, don’t listen to the amateur reviewer and what he wrote above. Yes you will be lost initially, but it is pretty straight forward so get over it. Good guy running for his life bad guys chasing him. If you want extreme detail right off the bat read the book lazy people.

  • thomas

    This is on a whole different level to twilight. The people can actualy act. Number 6 would destroy jacob and edward and dianna agron makes kristen stewart look like a troll

  • raptor

    I’d said that film is great but will be not correct.. the last 30 minutes is that what worth to seeing.

  • Rylee

    I loved this movie and everything about it. I always love the movies the critics write. Everyone has there own opinion but i really hope people don’t want to go see this movie because of the things that you wrote. And to all those who listen to what the critics say…..DON’T!!! Just look at what the people have to say about it.

  • truth494

    You critics are being really dumb! This is a good movie that I would watch a third time. Oh, and arguing about whether it is good or not, when you haven’t seen it? Really? How old are you, 3? Grow up!

  • danielle

    yea scewwww u allll i think the movie was freaking awsom and i want a movie 2 u guys suck and most of u idiots are boys so no wonder your comments are so negative i rate this movie 5 stares.

  • ina

    I think they making the characters so hot was a good thing because there was no way in hell i would have watched the movie if the characters were trolls. Overall i really did enjoy the movie and i hope they make a second. Didnt really like Sara tho, she wasnt a very big or interesting character to me. Number 6 on the other hand was awesome. So yeah i thought the movie was great and i disagree with you guys who say it was terrible.

  • Ariel

    I really loved this movie! I mean everyone may not have the same opinion as others but i would give this an A-. When I finished watching the movie, the first thing I did was go to google and see if there was gonna be an sequel to this. I think many teens will like this movie especially the girls. I mean who is complaining about having a hot guy to stare at the whole time. Like why would you complain about that. But overall I LOVED it and can’t wait for the sequel. And if you don’t like the movie then don’t go see the sequel and stay at home or something.

  • me

    matt goldberg i think you are gay for starters. you must be lonely and a loser and most diff been picked on by a ridiculously handsome boy in highschool. the movie was great. for you to go on and on and on how boring the move was seems to me like you shouldve turn it off. but no, now we were all bored with your absurd comments. so instead of writing your pathetic reviews why dont you go get a friend, a job, move out of your parents house and stop boring everyone. DUDE GO GET A LIFE!

  • Jealous Of Handsome Men?

    I want to know why the word Twilight was mentioned (and more than 2x at that) in this review. What in the HELL does this material have to do with Twilight? Is it a vampire romance? Are people sparkling? Was Number 6 stumbling & fainting? Are they drinking blood? Are there werewolves in this? Tell me, what IS it that makes you see Twilight in everything (yes, I say “everything” because if you see it in this you’ll see it in everything). ALSO, why give this a bottom drawer grade of “F”. An “F” to me is “not trying”. But for me the concept & plot of this film was VERY creative! I love the title and the premise. I’m a huge SF fan and haven’t seen this yet but I certainly would give it an “F” because the premise is to exciting, even if they couldn’t pull it off in the film. Also I agree with others who said you sound VERY angry towards men who are handsome. A LOT of horrible looking males (and older men especially) spit venom at males who look like something. Yes, Alex, Edward (since you kept bringing up Twilight), Jacob, and others are HOT & can sell tickets. Nobody wants to pay to see trolls on film. Get real.

  • Lilheat2003

    Every review I’ve read has been bad, but every comment on the reviews has been good or great! I don’t understand! Are these critics getting paid to “pimp out” certain movies or what? I wouldnt compare this movie to Twilight at all more like Transformers & in my opinion just as good. I sincerely hope they make a sequal & possibly more! I’m tired if watching movies from books & them only doing the first one! Eragon, The last air bender, The Golden compass, The Vampire’s Asstnt, etc….

  • VeronicaD

    This is a terrible review and who listens to reviewers anyway? They are people with opinions and nothing more. I am an elderly person and I LOVED this movie and would enjoy a sequel. I saw the lead actor in another movie and feel he has a lot of potential. They need to get away from the connection being High School students though. They can be young people but how they know each other could be something more creative.

    Quite frankly I don’t sit and watch a movie dissecting how it could have been made better. I watch it for what it is. Generally the first movie especially if made from a book series or planned series, is a set up movie to future things. People had better get used to that because it is a business venture to make money. I didn’t think anything about it was cheesy. I don’t know where people come up with these stupid ideas. It was entertaining, had a romance, had a subplot and a lot of action. I liked the way they did the aliens because they could pass somewhat for either being part of the goth community or in between. They don’t tell you if that is how they always look and dress. I look forward to a sequel. If they don’t make one they are nuts, the movie has developed a large fan base.

  • Kittie

    I have read the book and seen the movie and love them both. Matt, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • muhd fiqri hafizuddin

    what is the setting,solution,tone and mood and moral value for i am number four