Blu-ray Review: I Am Number Four (2011)

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Since standing them up by staying away from the box office in droves hasn’t stopped the studios from believing that if they build it, we will come, the next time Hollywood asks us to go to the movies we’ll have no choice but to tell them that we need to start seeing other people.

Yes, they lavish us with eye-candy and tokens of CGI affection, courting us back in their favor with deceptive trailers that assure us that the next film will be better. By adding a new set of circumstances to the characters and situations we fell for in blockbusters from the past, familiarity remains regardless of what’s claimed to have been changed.

Though we may be taken in by the promise of a dazzling feature at least for a little while, Déjà vu dominates us again and again. In contemporary popcorn fodder, just substituting superpowers here with distinguishing marks, costumes and/or trinkets there isn’t nearly enough.

The mannish boy on the silver screen could be anything including a vampire or a werewolf, an alien or a mutant, a superhero or a lightning thief, a full-blown wizard or a mere sorcerer’s apprentice. Unfortunately the difference exists solely in name since the interchangeable characters in Hollywood's latest tween releases are always the same.

By opening up the relationship to include more variety, the romance between the movies in question and the movie-going public can definitely be saved but it’s time we started seeing other people embark on the fantastical heroes journeys of Generation Y friendly fare than yet another hybrid of Harry Potter and Edward Cullen.

For if we'd had the option to choose our own adventurer to take us through the terrain of Disturbia and Eagle Eye director D.J. Caruso’s aliens are among us domain of I Am Number Four, not too many would’ve selected British actor Alex Pettyfer’s eponymous Number Four act as their tour guide.

As the fourth of nine gifted children selected to escape a deadly fate when murderous Mogadorian invaders wiped out the entire race on their home planet of Lorien, Number Four has spent most of his life on the intergalactic lam, hiding on Earth in plain sight under the protection of his assigned guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant).

Since a planet’s worth of genocide wasn’t enough for the Mogadorians, they’ve gotten the band back together, taking their murderous show on the road in an Earthbound tour, picking off Lorien’s youthful survivors on Earth one by one in official numerical order to prevent powers of the gifted and talented aliens from reaching their full potential.

With this in mind, it’s only a matter of time before Four’s number will literally be up, taking the top spot on the death list. And as the movie begins, news of Three’s slaughter reaches Four in oceanic Florida waters, leaving the teen and his guardian no choice but to pack their things and flee, seeking solace in the seemingly quaint but soon to be suspicious Midwestern town of Paradise, Ohio.

But in stark contrast to the quickening pace of those hunting Four given the amped up efforts undertaken by the Mogadorians to track him down wherever the path may lead, once our lead settles into life as the preposterously named John Smith, the overall narrative screeches to a dead halt.

Taking a page right out of the Hide Your Identity Handbook, he dyes his hair. But surely (we hope) it will take more than becoming a bottle blonde to stave off the Mogadorians as well as a bona fide blonde bombshell (Teresa Palmer) whose mysterious alliances are unknown but whose ability to blow up Number Four’s old beach house to the beat of a Number One song isn’t slowed down in the slightest by a mandatory Michael Bay slow-motion babe walk back to her bike.

Although it takes nearly one hundred of the movie’s one hundred and nine minute running time to discover who the girl in question actually is, had we been following her around instead of Four/John, we would’ve had a far more thrilling introduction to the same exact storyline.

Unfortunately because all we’ve been given is wizards and vampires and Hollywood doesn’t like to gamble on anything other than formulas, the commercial theory is that we won’t buy tickets to see a woman unless she’s as passive as Twilight’s Bella Swan who’s desperately in need of a pretty boy to save her.

So by never letting us see other people, there’s nothing the studios can compare it to and in a film based on a book designed to cash in on the same old Twilight craze, they play it safe in Number Four by letting the pretty boy take the lead once again via a character we quickly realize is nearly as dull as Twilight buzz-kill Edward Cullen.

And given the fact that even with his life on the line, the most Earth shattering plan of attack Four can make is preparing for multiple choice tests instead of battle by forging papers so he can voluntarily go to high school, it’s a good thing he has his looks to fall back on because there’s not much going on in the brain department.

From promising to keep a low profile before going out of his way to attract the attention of a cute girl (Glee's Dianna Agron) who takes candid photos of people she finds interesting and then posts them online, the irrational developments just keep on coming for the alien-boy formerly known as Four who’s become Mogadorian Enemy Number One.

Yet even though this probably wasn’t what Isaac Newton had in mind, every illogical decision that occurs onscreen was matched by a logical one of the same force offscreen in an attempt to reach the ticket-buying tween market.

Pulling the strings behind-the-scenes in a credit-free capacity, production mastermind Steven Spielberg aimed to position Four as DreamWorks’ and Disney’s answer to Twilight with the hope of spiraling into a franchise of roughly the same number of installments – give or take a few – to tie in with Pittacus Lore’s new series of young adult novels (in actuality written by Jobie Hughes and James Frey) that kicked off in 2010.

But instead of the beginning of an epic, Four is the equivalent of a prologue that should’ve been edited out of the book to lose us in the story faster.

Although it’s tempting to get lost in the overall spectacle on display in the first rate high definition transfer of the three-disc Combo Pack release that delivers the feature presentation in three different formats including DVD and Digital Copy along with the speaker rumbling, eye-popping Blu-ray, you can’t help but marvel over how much money was wasted by treating it like a commercial product rather than a film.

Produced by Michael Bay and adapted by the same superhero origin story specialists that created Smallville (Alfred Gough and Miles Millar) along with Buffy scribe Marti Noxon, even though there’s far less going on in the film than any given episode of The Vampire Diaries, it’s no wonder that Four has more in common with CW network fodder than it does with other supernatural thrillers.

And in spite of an exciting final act that could’ve doubled as a big budget super bowl ad, overall I Am Number Four plays like a two-hour trailer for the franchise they’re determined to build, with the expectation that – if we’re not seeing anyone else – we will come.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.