Saturday, 12 March 2011

I Am Number Four.

I Am Number Four cover.

When I saw the description of "Twilight with aliens" it was safe to say all semi-interest from the trailer was quickly crushed with the ideal of more annoying teen fandom, making even more philistines. After much debate and rejection of my Battle: Los Angeles suggestion, we decided to go see this. Walking into one of the smaller screens with the ring of pre-pubescent giggling and the odd terrible joke which quipped from their witty mouths safely affirmed my previous teen - probably more tween - judgement.

Plot: John is an extraordinary teen, masking his true identity and passing as a typical high school student to elude a deadly enemy seeking to destroy him. Three like him have already been killed ... he is Number Four.

I still forced myself to keep an open mind on this film though. I know that certifications mean nothing but I'm a fan of nothing being censored. I'm not saying there needs to be swearing and a lot of bloody and gory violence but it helps with a realism attribute if you block out blood which is inevitable in an action film. I know you shouldn't accept realism from sci-fi but it still helps.

It's based on a book by Pittacus Lore - which is a pseudonym for James Frey and Jobie Hughes who collaborated to create this book and made a special name for it, clever. The story is about an alien who looks like a human who's just trying to fit in. He's going through that awkward adolescence stage too so he has a profusion of problems with the added strain of being an extra-terrestrial. He is one of nine survivors from his planet and John, played by Alex Pettyfer who played Alex Ryder, is number four. They have to be killed in order, presumably, and are being pursued by the Mogadorians. These are the special children of their planet who have a responsibility to rebuild their society - which raises questions of potential inbreeding. I'm guessing they are the protectors and have to defeat what destroyed their civilisation (the Mogadorians) and there are others but not many. It's not fully explained but it will be, possibly. If not in the films it will be in the planned six-book series.

Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand and Dianna Agron

It's labelled as a romantic thriller as puppy love envelopes the first half. Then with the added volumes of angst and misunderstanding of the characters, it is heading the way of being very cliché. John is forced to move again with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant who brought us such "classics" as The Crazies and Die Hard 4.0) and ends up in an ironically named town called Paradise in Ohio. The first half is about the love story of John and Sarah Hart (Dianna Agron of Glee fame) and how they develop. She's a shy, keen photographer who is pretty much alone until John makes an impression on her. The first half is about them and their ever-growing bond.

Trying to remain invisible in a small town school is a challenge, especially if you're now getting alien powers which illuminate a dark room. John's powers consist of super strength, telekinesis (which can be controlled via his mind or his hands) and the ability to illuminate his hands and use that as a heat source of a weapon; maybe it's concentrated energy, I'm not sure, it's not explained.

John also befriends the local alien enthusiast, sci-fi loving, comic book reading geek named Sam (Callan McAuliffe). He is bullied by the typical social hierarchy of the jocks who are led by Mark (Jake Abel from Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief). So we've got the clichés all in force for this film then. The jock antagonist, the bullied nerd, misunderstood hot girl and the new kid who's the spanner in the works, intertwining all of their lives. I suppose if you look passed the unoriginal character base it is more interesting than the norm. The only problem is you're surrounded by the far too familiar surrounding with an annoying "love" story of the first half. I'm all for romances but the whole "love after a week" ideal drives me insane and this annoyed me to a great end.

Quote from Sam: "[Explaining his good aim] I play a lot of Xbox..."

Getting passed that idea, all the clichés and the terrible and cheesy script it's hard to see where the film actually gets good. It does though. It kicks in with the tattooed, blood-thirsty Mugadorians, who are led by the underrated Kevin Durand. There's finally tension in a film when they're introduced and it turns into something it should have been from the beginning. A more action and thriller orientated film, rather than cashing in on the Twilight glory by adding a romance story with very little depth.

The film (and book I suppose) is clever because they do actually twig an interest in the film and the potential series. Not only do you care about the characters but you have genuine intrigue in his alien life, why he has flash-light hands, what happened to his ancestors and so on. The character I cared more about was Sam as his father was missing which is hinted to be an abduction of some sort; alien orientated no doubt. There are many other things that interest you like the other children. This has the potential to be incredibly successful if done properly but will it be?

This is more of a B-film with a pretty hefty budget for CGI. The CGI isn't the best I've ever seen but it's not terrible. With the second half spectacle and the introduction of sexy number six the film does pick up and actually make it enjoyable to watch. If only the first half monotony hadn't made you bitter and bored it would have been a much better film. I must admit that I mocked this film a lot with Haz. We mocked the script mostly which was poorly written and combined with ultimate cheesiness. No one wants to hear Sam quip why his aim his good on an Xbox. That doesn't even make sense anyway. A joystick is nothing like the real thing. There are plenty of lines like "I know how to blend in" then a cut to John tactically putting his hood up. He's a master of disguise!

If you can get passed the first half's bore fest which is supposed to be enlighten you on the character backgrounds then it becomes interesting. It becomes the first of what could be a great series, eclipsing Percy Jackson's brief flirt with cinema. That's if it gets the go ahead to make more, which I'm doubting. It's barely been advertised, only four screenings per day in my local cinema, in one of the smaller screens too. People don't know about the film or really want to go see it, I know of no one really. If it doesn't get the money then it won't make more films and the loss of a potentially interesting series, which'll be a shame.

I'm being generous because of the potential series.


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