Wednesday, 18 January 2012

I Am Number Four

Lowdown: An alien with superhero abilities who is masquerading as a human teen hides from international assassins at an average American high school.
Teenage films feel like they’ve always been there. However, through successes like Twilight, Hollywood’s bean counters seemed to have realized there is a lot of money to be made out of producing contents aimed at dealing directly with teenagers’ anxieties (rather than, say, producing the gross comedies for teens I grew up with). I Am Number Four is a fine example for such a film, but it is also an example for the main problem besetting films made mostly by the bean counting / marketing departments: poor quality.
I Am Number Four pulls the science fiction card on the theme (again). Aliens have landed on earth, and they are goodie refugees escaping their home planet from a race of other, vicious, aliens. Ten of them goodies have superpowers that will develop as they mature, and in the mean time they have their individual guardians looking after them as they spread across the globe. However, they need to be careful: even upon earth they are being hunted by those evil aliens; plus the fact that by having supernatural abilities, like lighting up, they are rather conspicuous to the humans of earth (even if, for all other intents and purposes, they appear and behave human). Our dear aliens address this problem by moving around all the time.
Number Four (Alex Pettyfer), the film's alien of choice, embarks on such a move as the film starts. Defying his guardian’s instructions he decides to camouflage himself by going to school (what a silly idea!), where he immediately befriends a sexy girl, feels sympathy for a geek that’s being harassed by the cool guys, and develops a love/hate relationship with this same cool gang. We basically have ourselves the regular teenager themes here, as seen from the male point of view: teenage love, bullying and acceptance into social circles. However, in the case of I Am Number Four things are all supernaturally magnified by fantastic themes: the hero’s superhero abilities, the baddies tracking him down, and a mysterious blonde chick (Teresa Palmer) that’s also tracking him down and has a fetish to fire and explosions (not to mention an Aussie accent). Given the movie does its best to render the baddies ugly, it is pretty clear where the blonde's allegiances lies.
And there's the rub with I Am Number Four. It is pretty entertaining, in a simple sort of way; but it is also quite predictable (zero rewards for guessing school is going to end up as the film's battlefield), riddled with clich├ęs, and overfilled with stereotypes. Not to mention various things that don't make sense, like the hero's guardian use of a particularly pathetic looking short sword to defend his master with from baddies carrying full blown blasters. Perhaps once upon a time when teens would rarely watched films aimed directly at them films could get away with such trash, but in today's scene where kids start watching feature films at the age of three I Am Number Four can no longer get way with being labelled teen fodder.
Worst scene:
Number Four’s geeky friend tells him he always knew there are aliens amongst us. The reason? His father told him so and he grew to believe in it so much. And real teens are supposed to acquire their inspiration from bullshit arguments such as that?
Let me break it to you. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims out there that believe strongly in their prophet; there are also hundreds of millions of Christians out there that believe strongly in their prophet. Obviously, with all their strong beliefs, at least one of these groups has to be wrong! I would argue that both are wrong, but regardless – my point is that hundreds of millions of people with strong beliefs have to be wrong despite all of their believing.
Technical assessment: An average Blu-ray on the picture side sporting above average sound. Pity the sound is used to make the viewer jump in their seat all too often.
Overall: While mildly entertaining, there can be no doubt Number Four is trash. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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