“Roswell” meets Critters (and a dozen other ideas.)
John (Alex Pettyfer) appears to be your average, thrill-seeking late teen on the cusp of adulthood. He may be athletic, good looking, and popular, but he also has a secret: he’s not from around here. Protected by Henri (Timothy Olyphant), both are being chased by a group of bounty hunters (led by Kevin Durand) who prefer to make a sport out of the exercise and delight in seeing their quarries caught and put down. The collateral damage? Us.
“Something is Out There,” “Roswell,” Disney’s Witch Mountain series, I Come in Peace. There has been no shortage of science fiction stories about human-looking aliens dropped off on Earth to hide from monstrous bad guys. Whether they are the last of their race or destined to save their species, they always have a few things in common: they can look human, they have super powers, and Earthlings are usually sexually attracted to them. While there are plenty of holes to fill in this obvious first-of-a-series film, I Am Number Four is decidedly more Aliens ass kicking than Twilight ‘tweening.
The film sets off out of the gate to set up the chase, not the romance; the body count starts rising fast. There’s also an intelligence to the script, such as suggesting how dangerous Earth’s social media networks can be for someone on the run and the need to counter or evade them. When special abilities not of this Earth do start to manifest, the welders are not instantly aware of how they work or what to do with them. A later scene also demonstrates that just because you can do something super powered doesn’t mean you’re not vulnerable against someone well aware of your capabilities. And, of course, there’s that time-honored tradition of the “good” aliens looking like gorgeous humans (male and female) while the “bad” aliens appear decidedly inhuman (a bit that Kevin Durand as the alien commander plays up to steal scene after scene reveling in it.)
Unanswered questions be damned, I Am Number Four plods ahead towards its inevitable more-to-come conclusion and doesn’t look back. Fans of heavy hardware and big booms will certainly find the escape they’re looking for, and the overall production is pretty ‘tween light compared to the battle sequences. The source material that this film was reportedly drawn from featured a far younger hero and more smitten romantic bits, but filmmakers wisely scaled up the age and destruction into a pleasant popcorn flick that’s heavy on running for your life and light on talking for hours without touching.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)