I Am Number Four (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, PG-13)

Just once, I wish the person who realizes that they have massive amounts of untapped power and must save us all from malevolence would be a 52-year-old.

Growing up is hard to do. It can be difficult to figure yourself out amidst all the acne, angst and superpowers, as John (Alex Pettyfer) will soon see.
John’s idyllic life as a high school superstar comes crashing to an end when he realizes that another of his young alien comrades has been killed by the band of evil Mogadorians, sent to Earth to track the refugees. Numbers one, two and now three have been found and murdered, and with each death John and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) destroy their old identities to begin again somewhere new, all in the hopes of keeping John safe. When Henri and John arrive in a new town and John’s powers start to manifest, however, things get exciting sooner than either could have predicted.
I Am Number Four is the product of every powerful-youth-must-save-the-world film that has come before it. All the pieces are there: Beleaguered Hero, Love Interest, Fearless Guardian, Brave and/or Powerful Buddies and, of course, Big Bad. How the filmmakers assemble those pieces, though, is more important than anything.
After the film, I couldn’t help but wonder; haven’t we seen the turbulence of youth mirrored in major battles between good and evil enough? I know it wouldn’t be as much fun for the tweens, but, just once, I wish the person who realizes that they have massive amounts of untapped power and must save us all from malevolence would be a 52-year-old.
That would be interesting. You’ve already lived a full life and now have to put it all on the line to keep the world spinning. “But, all my kids are finally out of the house,” our hero would bellow. “I was going to take a leave of absence and sleep until noon everyday. Unfair, universe! Unfair!”  But, I digress.
Honestly, I was expecting more from screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who created the television show Smallville. I Am Number Four isn’t the worst of its genre, but it’s not the best, either. What we have here is standard fare.
One of the issues I have with the film is how it manages to explain a lot without really explaining anything at all. There’s an exposition-heavy scene early in the film where John tells us about his former planet and why he and the other alien teens are on Earth, but we didn’t really need to have that stuff spelled out for us. The questions we did need answered, however, were left untouched.
For example, why does John know nothing about his superpowers until they surprise him in school one day? Since John was already entrusted with the knowledge that he wasn’t from Earth and needed to be protected, why not let him in on his special lineage?
Also, when it’s discovered that the good aliens have been helped by people in the past, they never tell us who those aliens were, how they got here or how they chose the humans who’d assist them. Even John and Henri thought that the super-teens and their guardians were the only survivors from their world, so when did those aliens get here and where are they now?
Overall, too much was left a mystery, not because it was better for the story, but because the filmmakers are clearly trying to set up a sequel or two. It would’ve been better to let the audience in on more of the mysteries so we could really become invested in the story. In this case, we’re left with the empty kind of feeling that comes from being outside of the action; we saw what happened and know we’re supposed to care, but we don’t.
The action in I Am Number Four is also unfortunate; it’s amazing. So, why isn’t that a good thing? Well, it only truly kicks in when the film is two-thirds over. Considering that so much of the story is standard genre-play, I would have much preferred an action-packed ride that gave us the basic story and then let ‘er rip with fights, car chases and explosions. And I never say that.│Adrienne Jones

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