Tuesday, March 8, 2011

“I am Number Four” – At least you’re not a number two.

My campaign to be cast in this movie’s sequel begins now. Obviously, I would play Number Nine, as I’ve already got the moniker, and I will gladly “take one for the team” by making out with the hot Australian chick that plays Number Six (Teresa Palmer). Send letters to the studio, start a Facebook page, post this review wherever you can - every little bit helps. You’ll be helping a dying man realize a dream.

Yes, it’s true – I am dying, but not any more than you. But nobody ever rallies behind a healthy man. Would it help if I told you I really liked I am Number Four? It’s my kind of story and I enjoyed the crap out of it. It’s a science fiction story about nine people with special powers from another world who are being hunted by an evil alien race. What’s not to like? Okay, I know how it sounds – ridiculous. It doesn’t help that the nine are teenagers hiding out on Earth in the hopes of surviving long enough to realize their full potential and save the galaxy from the Mogadorians (evil aliens). It also doesn’t help that the movie is based on a book of the same name, written for teenagers by two guys using the pen name Pittacus Lore. Like I said – ridiculous.

I fully understand if that isn’t your type of movie and you’re wondering how old I really am. Science fiction and fantasy don’t appeal to a lot of people and I won’t judge you for that. This movie even has the unfortunate stigma of being released in February, or as I like to call it, the armpit of the calendar. In the past three years, I’ve seen two February movies very similar to this one that both put the stink in that armpit – Jumper (2008) and Push (2009). Luckily, I am Number Four had the advantage of being produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay and cast Timothy Olyphant and Teresa Palmer instead of Hayden Christensen and Dakota Fanning.

Admittedly, this movie makes no attempt to be sophisticated, mature, or even attempt to appeal to adults. As I said, the book was written for young adults and the movie sticks with that paradigm. The aliens are kind of scary looking, but mostly cartoonish in appearance, including gills on either side of their nose and head tattoos. Besides Olyphant, they are the only adults in the film while the rest of the characters are high schoolers. Considering Olyphant is featured very sparingly and is not the main character, there just isn’t much for adult audience members to latch on to. Even the story alienates adults in addition to what I described earlier. Henri (Olyphant) is Four’s (Alex Pettyfer) guardian and Four just wants to hang out with other kids and his female interest, Sarah (Dianna Agron). For most parents, this is like watching a rerun of every conversation they’ve had in the last two years.

In spite of all of that, there are components to the story that just hit me in the right spot. One is the idea that there are still six of the kids left and each one has a unique power that complements the other kids. In the case of Four, he can recharge the powers of the others, as they have a finite energy supply in their bodies which powers their abilities. Another is that they don’t have their powers because of any goofy shit like radioactive spiders, gamma rays, or the yellow light of the sun. They have powers because that’s who they are. I also like that Four is discovering his powers and isn’t very good with them. I hate movies like Push where the hero goes from bumbling idiot to ninja without so much as one training lesson. It’s very difficult to empathize with a character that doesn’t struggle; it makes them seem like they have no weakness and we are trained to root for the underdog. Finally, they don’t introduce all of the remaining kids. As a matter of fact, Six is the only one who makes an appearance, confirming that there will be at least one sequel.

Perhaps the best part of the film is in the beginning when the Mogadorians kill Number Three. This is very important for building tension in the film as it gives them credibility as being dangerous and casts doubt if Four or any of the others are going to survive. A little bit of loss is always a good way to make the audience feel that much better about the hero winning in the end. It’s one reason why the mentor almost always dies in heroes’ journeys.

My point in all of this rambling is that, to me, this was a very good movie. It doesn’t have any glaring plot holes, terrible performances, bad special effects, nor does it ask you to accept nonsense that conflicts with other parts of the film. I also have no delusions that this film is an Oscar winner waiting to happen. Like anyone, I have my own preferences and just like some movies more than others. If you like gross-out flicks like The Hills Have Eyes, or action flicks with no substance like 300, or boring tear-jerkers like Precious, all I can do is warn you of why I dislike those types of films and perhaps recommend you a good psychologist. Just remember – I am a dying man.

Rating: Under the category “you know what you are getting with this film,” don’t ask for any money back. The film delivers what’s promised when it could have easily dropped a number two.

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