I Am Number Four film review

You will LOVE sci-fi flick I Am Number Four... if you’re an undemanding 12 year old that is. Based on the youth novel of the same name by Pittacus Lore – a pseudonym for writers James Frey and Jobie Hughes – I Am Number Four is clearly intended to be the first instalment in a hit new movie franchise for teens. The problem though is that the film lacks a strong individual identity, resulting in a very “average” cinema experience. It’s harmless and inoffensive, but at the same time it’s also not much else of anything really – and it’s an especially huge letdown if you consider big names like Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg are behind the project.


Directed by Disturbia’s D. J. Caruso, I Am Number Four centres on John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), a lonely fifteen year old who has lived his whole life on the run. You see, John is actually an alien, and one of the last nine “gifted” survivors of his home world Lorien, which was destroyed by malicious invaders known as Mogadorians. Evacuated from the planet as a toddler, John is protected by warrior guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant). Of course it’s hard to keep a low profile during the Online Age, so John and Henri move around a lot. And when the Mogadorians find and execute Number Three (the Loriens must be killed in numerical order for some unexplained reason), and begin searching for John, our heroes attempt anonymity in the nondescript town of Paradise, Ohio. Unfortunately this happens to coincide with the development of John’s amazing powers – including telekinesis and superhuman strength.

It’s hardly a surprise that Al Gough and Miles Millar, the writer-producers of Smallville worked on the screenplay for I Am Number Four, because the film feels just like an episode of the teen Superman TV series – with better special effects and a sexier, more charismatic lead. We’ve seen it all before:
  1. Our hero, despite being gorgeous, is swiftly lumped with the local high school’s geeky UFO-conspiracy theorist (Callan McAuliffe doing a major Shia LaBeouf impersonation), and becomes a target for bullying by the football captain.
  2. Our hero struggles to control his powers – influenced by his emotions – in the hormonally charged high school environment.
  3. Our hero falls for the school’s ultra-sweet, former queen bee (Dianna Agron), now an outcast because she has matured beyond school politics, and is all like “deep” and “creative” and stuff with her vintage camera.
  4. Our hero experiences the happiness of a real family life for the first time while having dinner at his new girlfriend’s house.
  5. Our hero’s love interest just so happens to be the football captain’s ex. And their break-up didn’t go well.
As I said, we’ve seen it all before.


There are many other gripes to be made about I Am Number Four apart from its lack of originality. The film’s midsection painfully loses momentum, and logic gaps are plentiful. If you’re charged with protecting an alien saviour, why would you keep him in complete ignorance about his history, biology and combat capabilities? Why, if you’re on the run from both vicious aliens and the police, would you still prioritise going to your high school darkroom to develop photos?

Then there’s the film’s biggest annoyance – its lack of resolution and dozens of unanswered questions. I Am Number Four’s makers are clearly overconfident that the film will spawn sequels, and as a result much needed explanations are being kept in reserve... potentially forever. I Am Number Four could easily be to science fiction what the Eragon movie was to traditional fantasy.


This review may sound relentlessly harsh but I Am Number Four is actually watchable – even if unworthy of a cinema viewing. And there are some bright spots amidst the mediocrity. The villains are a lot of fun, revelling in their evil, and Teresa Palmer brings some sexy edge to proceedings... even if she is the stereotypical ass-kicking biker chick. Still though, she’s way more interesting than John’s doe-eyed, dull love interest.

I Am Number Four offers an early taste of typical midyear blockbusters: technically competent but neither adventurous or memorable. By all accounts you’re better off reading the book and its planned sequels. At least that way you’re unlikely to be left hanging.

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