The fourth Twilight film isn’t due until November 17th, so mankind still has a good couple of months to prepare for the Breaking Dawn of the Dead, whereupon all estrogen-producing creatures emerge at the stroke of midnight to collectively howl about how mortal men are neither deceased nor canine enough to satisfy their needs.
In the meantime, though, we still have to deal with Twilight clones such as I Am Number Four. This shameless cash-grab is so desperate to be the next big thing amongst impressionable teens, it could easily be confused for a prequel to the Twilight series. You know, the one where Bella, before choosing between necrophilia and bestiality, dabbled in a little sextra-terrestrialism with a hunky alien teenager named John (Alex Pettyfer; Stormbreaker).
Of the few who survived the destruction of planet Lorien — a world that was inhabited exclusively by inexpressive Calvin Klein models — John is number Four. We’re told that numbers One, Two and Three have already been killed by a bunch of nasty aliens called the Mogadorians, and because their dim-witted Commander (a dull Kevin Durand) lacks the capacity to count out of order, John is next on their hit list. But why exactly do they want him dead? And what do the numbers really mean? Who knows. I Am Number Four would prefer it if you didn’t ask so many pertinent questions.
Moving on. With the help of his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant; The Crazies), John reluctantly moves to the quaint country town of Paradise to lay low for a while. He attends the local school to blend in, but during his first day, he stands up to the school bully Mark (Jake Abel; The Lovely Bones) for the sake of resident geek Sam (Callan McAuliffe; Flipped), and on his second day, he falls head over furls for a student photographer Sarah (Dianna Agron; Burlesque). She falls for him too, of course, because he’s all brooding and tormented. I should also mention that John has spotlights on his hands, which in the title for worst superpower ever, marginally puts him behind Smelly-Feet Steve and Toilet-Plunger Tim.
Dear oh dear, I’ve reached the point where I’m now inventing superheroes to make this drivel sound more interesting than it really is. But do not be fooled; I Am Number Four is nothing more than a monotonous mishmash of Spider-Man, Twilight, Harry Potter, X-men, X-Files, Smallville and [insert sci-fi/fantasy text here]. There is not a single moment of inspiration on display; the story by Pittacus Lore – a pen name for authors Jobie Hughes and James Frey to hide behind – was clearly written with the sole intent of capitalising on the void that will be left behind by Twilight and Harry Potter, two mega-franchises that are in their final chapters. I Am Number Four was never a story begging to be told, it was merely money begging to be made.
But will it succeed? I doubt it. Teenagers aren’t suckers for anything; Harry Potter is undeniably imaginative and immersive, and while Twilight is nowhere near as inspired, it does contain an idealistic young romance that speaks directly to quixotic hearts. I Am Number Four tries too hard to appeal to both genders, and in doing so, alienates both. Sure, females will enjoy perving on leading man Alex Pettyfer with his tousled blond hair and tanned biceps, but the real reason girls flock to Twilight is not solely because it features shirtless boys, but rather because in the middle of the hunk-sandwich is a female protagonist they can wishfully pretend to be.
As for teenage boys, they will likely roll their eyes at the wishy-washy romance between John and Sarah, which begins to take precedence over the thinly-plotted sci-fi storyline. The action is also spread far too thin, especially for a film that claims to be action-packed. With a fairly small budget of $50 million, director D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia) has cut obvious corners by shooting most of the effect-heavy sequences at night, where digital trickery is harder to spot. Yet each of these scenes are so poorly lit and so frenetically edited, I hadn’t a clue what was going on, nor the impetus to care.
So if not teenagers, what age group will I Am Number Four ultimately appeal to? I’ll give you a hint; the answer is in the title.