I’m betting that I’m not the only person who suspects that I have latent superpowers, secret skills that make me far better than the average mortal, cooler, faster, stronger and, yeah, able to either leap tall buildings in a single bound, fix broken eyeglasses with a magic wand or have my hands glow a cool blue when I’m upset. It must be the case because there are an incredible number of movies — and probably the vast majority of comics books and graphic novels written — about this theme.
It comes as no surprise that I Am Number Four falls neatly into that same category of “secret superpowers” film, but this time with a sprinkling of attractive caucasian teen aliens, creepy alien bad guys, and a whole lotta cute girls and jock bullies at an otherwise nondescript high school somewhere in the Midwest. Can you say “cliché city”? I knew you could.
The story’s based on a book of the same name and has John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) as the title character, number four of nine alien survivors who each have a “legacy”, a secret superpower. Their home planet, Lorien, has been invaded by the brutal Mogadorians (“Mogs”) and they’re the last nine of their kind. Except #1, #2 and #3 have already been killed, so there are actually six of them. Oh, and their warrior guardians (John’s guardian is Henri (Timothy Olyphant)), so there are actually twelve left. No, wait, there are also chimera, shapeshifting animal guardians that jump up the number too. Oh, who knows, there’s a bunch of folk from Lorien on Earth. Like a cheesy X Files episode, the Mogs want to kill the remaining Loriens then take over Earth because, well, I guess because it’s pretty.
Is this sounding like a mess yet? Now, imagine you’re a scriptwriter and you’ve been given this goofy teen action romance and then spent too much time watching Predators, Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills 90210, The X Files and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It’d be pretty hard not to steal from them all and end up with a film that, like I Am Number Four, is endlessly derivative and so cliche-ridden that it’s like a study guide for “Movie Tropes 101” in film school.
Still, they’re all attractive actors, notably including the super-cute love interest Sarah (Dianna Agron). Even geeky science nerd Sam (Callan McAuliffe) and jock bully — and former boyfriend of Sarah’s — Mark (Jake Abel) and his posse are reasonably interesting characters, and the action scenes, though too infrequent, are well staged, with great special effects courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic. So, in the end, is it worth seeing I Am Number Four? I’d say it’s a solid date movie with its PG-13 sensibilities and Michael Bay-inspired chases and stunts, but even with the daft ending scene promising sequels, it’s pretty forgettable.