Review: I AM NUMBER FOUR - Twilight For Boys!

rating: 3

Alex Pettyfer is Number Four, AKA John Smith, a teenage boy from another planet with burgeoning extraordinary powers. Constantly on the run from the Evil Mogadorians, John and his protector, Timothy Olyphant€™s Henri, end up in the town of Paradise, Ohio, where John falls for fellow school pupil Sarah. All John wants to do is settle down and live the life of a normal teenager, but, with three others like him already killed, John is number four on the Mogadorians list and they won€™t stop until they€™ve found him. You€™d be forgiven for being more than a little skeptical about €˜I Am Number Four€™. I mean, let€™s be honest, it€™s not the greatest title in the world, is it? Then there€™s the fact that the story centres on a romance between a teenage couple that can€™t be together because of otherworldly forces standing in their way (ring any bells, anyone?). Oh, and star Alex Pettyfer is mainly known for the franchise that wasn€™t to be €˜Alex Rider: Stormbreaker€™ which fell at the first hurdle. Naysayers will also point out the similarities between this and TV€™s €˜Smallville€™ (it€™s no coincidence that the studio hired Alfred Gough and Miles Millar of that particular show to carry out the screenwriting duties on this) and, finally, it€™s produced by a certain Michael Bay, whom the mere mention of his name is enough to provoke a debate at the best of times. But you know what? I€™ll even play my cards now; €˜I Am Number Four€™ provides some genuine scares, and more than enough exhilarating action and requisite teenage angst to thoroughly deserve a place in the current teen fantasy canon. And make no bones about it, John Smith would kick Edward Cullen and Jacob Black€™s asses along with their werewolf and vampire buddies any day of the week. Why, this is Twilight for boys! Director D.J. Caruso, who proved that he knows a thing or two about crafting thrills for teen audiences with €˜Rear Window€™ for the noughties €˜Disturbia€™, certainly gets us off to a good start, as no sooner do the opening credits roll he treats us to a blistering opening scene that is sure to scare the hell out of younger audience members and parents alike. And here comes the surprise, especially with the Michael Bay association, but that€™s pretty much it in terms of flashy action sequences until the barnstorming finale. Don€™t let that put you off though, because this is where Caruso and his writers do so such a great job. From now on it is all character as John and Henri€™s running takes them to the small rural town of Paradise. The forces of antagonism in John€™s life now are not evil Aliens, but the same for any other teenager; the high school bully, his Guardian Henri who restricts his social activities, and the local Sheriff who keeps a watchful eye on him after he beats up the school Jocks. As €˜Smallville€™ proved, High-School is hard for a teenage alien with special abilities but for John it€™s even harder as he€™s part of the Youtube generation and that means that the odd time that he does do something special, there€™s always a classmate on hand to video it and upload it to the internet, which only serves to add to the obstacles in his way. Kevin Durand and his sinister Mogadorian cohorts are always omnipresent, getting closer by the moment, and, refreshingly, these are bad guys that possess a real threat (pay attention to the dastardly way that Durand dispatches of a UFO conspiracy theorist in particularly nasty fashion). As for the cast, Pettyfer handles the action and romance scenes well (he€™s also clearly been quaffing the protein shakes) and Timothy Olyphant cuts an unusual surrogate father figure, mainly due to the fact he still has something of that wild-eyed craziness about him that he possessed in the film €˜Go€™, but that keeps things interesting and avoids the character from becoming another boring mentor stereotype. After a middle act that develops the romance between John and Sarah (a vivacious turn from €˜Glees€™ Dianna Agron) and neat little set pieces at a house party, and what is possibly the scariest fun fair ride ever, we reach the aforementioned barnstorming finale. It€™s now that we see Michael Bay€™s touch, as all of the best toys are let out of the box to play and a thrilling showdown between John and the Mogadorians ensues. Luckily, John€™s not quite on his own though, as he€™s aided by a carefully planted appearance from Teresa Palmer€™s Number Six (a performance that will make many a 13yr old boys heart go a flutter), and she gets to kick her fair share of Mogadorian butt, too. Sure, there are things that I could nitpick at, in particular the very irritating iPhone product placement, but let€™s take this for what it is and that€™s a slick and fun popcorn flick that will keep many of it€™s intended target audience thoroughly entertained and looking forward to the inevitable sequel. Special mention also goes to the soundtrack that includes the likes of The Kings of Leon, The Temper Trap and The XX. I Am Number Four is released in the U.K. this Wednesday.
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