Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Am Number Four

"But it's an easy fix. One line of dialogue. 'Thank God we invented the'- you know- 'whatever device."

I'm not going to pretend I don't know how the world works. I understand that most people go to the movies to watch beautiful people do extraordinary things. It's the same reason why even characters labeled as "ugly" by the totality of a films population are still played by the gorgeous and fit. So it doesn't bother me seeing yet another Abercrombie and Fitch model play a lonely outcast. Nor does it bother me to see another gorgeous twenty-something play a high school student. What bothers me is that I Am Number Four stars both Alex Pettyfer and Timothy Olyphant as two of the last remaining members of an alien species hiding out on earth, and apparently we're just supposed to take their word for it.

It's a long standing pet peeve of mine- call it creative laziness: movies that silently assert the ridiculous idea that a species of being that develops in a complete different atmosphere with completely different environmental and zoological stimuli would end up looking physically identical to humans. Most creative teams have the decency to take the two minutes it requires to insert some sort of explanation; advanced camouflage technology or abilities, some sort of DNA splicing- these are the most popular. A bit lazy themselves maybe, but better than nothing.

By comparison, Roddenberry, while the better part of his aliens tend to walk upright with two arms and two legs, took the time to at least do some make-up work. Changes in skin color, prosthetic bone formations on the face and body, even fake antennae on the tops of heads. To ice the cake they inserted a storyline that explained all the similarities as part of the cannon. Lucas (grumble grumble) may not have ever explained why humans a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away were exactly the same as humans here and now, but he certainly made sure they looked different than the rest of the races there.

You may be reading this thinking: 'Okay we're three paragraphs into this review and we're still talking about what isn't in the movie as opposed to what is.' And your thinking right. Normally, this "detail" would be something I would simply notice or call attention to briefly, but then I would move on to the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, whether or not you've seen I Am Number Four, you already know everything else about it.

Typical high school hero fare, complete with quarter backs telling gorgeous loners to stay away from their girl, powers being discovered for the first time on campus, and a character whose last words are encouragement to go face one's destiny. Hero stepping in to protect the "nerd" from football playing antagonists? Check. Scene where students eat lunch on the grassy expanse of the high school's grounds? Aye-Aye. Awkward attempt to make the hero showing his powers to the love interest romantic? Done and done. I can't imagine any of this would come as an insult to the three writers billed for this screen play, since it seems rather obvious that originality was never their goal. "Let's get this thing banged out by noon, I have a lunch meeting with Kristen Stewart's agent about the next Nicholas Sparks movie" I can hear one of them saying.

I Am Number Four is a paint by numbers venture built atop an interesting but poorly executed back story. Though admittedly fun, the movie is just as forgettable. I've never read the the book (of the same name) that it's based on, but I can only hope for the authors' sake that this movie is a poor representation. Given that I Am Number Four is already generating profit though it hasn't even been in theaters a full month, the open ending of the movie, and the existence of additional books in the series to milk adapt, I would say this humdrum title won't be the last we here of John Doe... yes they really did name him that. If a sequel does come, one thing is for sure, it certainly won't have been awarded on merit.

The Reel Deal Recommends:
Dreamcatcher: Olyphant in a great cast; based on a novel by Stephen King.

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