Although John (Pettyfer) looks like a normal teenage boy, he’s actually one of the few survivors of an alien race who fled to Earth to escape the vicious Mogadorian race. As Number Four out of nine special children capable of developing powerful abilities, John is protected by his guardian Henri (Olyphant), who moves him to a new town following the death of Number Three. While John attempts to keep a low-profile with the Mogadorians closing in, he falls for local girl Sarah (Agron) and his powers start developing…
As brooding teen-bait which adapts the story of supernatural hunk romancing a normal girl from a popular book series, D.J. Caruso’s I Am Number Four has understandably been compared to the unfeasibly-popular Twilight saga. But yet, while further comparisons could be made, it’s actually closer in tone and feel to TV show Smallville, given that we’re dealing with a lonely, human-looking alien refugee with blossoming super-powers who exists as outsider at a small-town high school. Of course, this is hardly surprising since the screenplay was penned by the show’s creators, Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, but the problem is that the result feels more like an extended episode as opposed to something different enough to stand out.
Plus, at the risk of dragging the comparison on, all the main players bare comparisons to certain Smallvillian counterparts. As the chiseled outcast with special abilities, John is obviously our Clark Kent. As the non-blood guardian looking after a surrogate son more powerful than him, Henri is our Jonathan Kent. And, as the former popular girl looking to find herself, Sarah is our Lana Lang. In addition, we’ve also got Callan McAuliffe (who acquits himself well)’s smart conspiracy theorist who believes in aliens (Chloe Sullivan anyone?) and Jake Abel’s bully jock (anyone remember Whitney Fordman?).
Interestingly, the picture was also co-penned by regular Buffy scribe Marti Noxon, yet there’s very little of the snap and quirk we might expect from her. Presumably, her input was diluted down in favour of a familiar (and, undeniably, derivative) mix of superheroism and sullen teen drama in order to kick-start a would-be franchise. Regardless of who wrote what though, having our central pairing stop off to look at some photos amidst all the climactic death and destruction is such shoddy scene placement that it feels like it was slotted there by mistake.
Brit Alex Pettyfer is suitably hunky in the lead and boasts a jawline which looks like it was drawn with a set-square, while his peers deliver largely what is required of them from this sort of teen demographic. Elsewhere, although the excellent Timothy Olyphant elevates the material whenever he’s on screen, he’s pretty much wasted here, as is Kevin Durand as one of gothy-dressed villains.
Though undoubtedly comparable to the Twilight saga and likely to please some of its fans, I Am Number Four is essentially a feature-length episode of Smallville. Ultimately, it’s light-weight stuff which haters of sci-fi or teen-drama will find silly and dull, but it’s enjoyable in spells. Expect sequels.