“I am Number 4.” Alex Pettyfer declares in the film’s opening voice-over monologue. Well he’s cleverly dropped in the name of the film in case anybody had made a mistake upon entering the cinema. What a thoughtful, considerate man he is. Sadly for those who remain to watch the rest of the film, there is disappointment on the horizon. Not in the form of dodgy CG beasts, or stilted dialogue performed by a cast that really should know better. It’s more the sense that we, the audience, have paid to see a feature-length episode of American television rather than a bona fide film.
It is perhaps unsurprising that this film is brought to us by the same producers that brought us, the once interesting and by the end utterly unbearable, Smallville. I Am Number 4 plays exactly like a season finale, complete with high school stereotypes, a beautiful but ‘deep’ female love interest and the token geeky side-kick. It takes all of one’s self-control not to imagine Tom Welling in Pettyfer’s place and the annoyingly named Paradise, Ohio replaced with Smallville, Kansas. It doesn’t even have the good grace to cast a lead villain as interesting as Lex Luthor, instead we are subjected to an angry bald paint-by-numbers bad guy who is nothing other than a little bit mean.
I’m not sure what Timothy Olyphant’s agent is doing, but signing him up for a film like I Am Number 4, but seems like an odd career move for one of Hollywood’s most charismatic and engaging character actors. Still here he is, doing his best growly, embattled veteran protector, and as is always the case in these stories he doesn’t appear too heavily after a certain incident. So with him otherwise ‘engaged’ it’s up to Number 4 to carry the meat of the narrative. The film-makers of I Am Number 4 obviously lost faith in their lead and immediately went into action scene after action scene. Some of them, such as the introduction of Number 6 (Teresa Palmer) are well-handled but in the end it’s difficult to care about any one or anything to do with this film.
Your best bet would be to watch any of the season finales of the first 4 seasons of Smallville. I Am Number 4 is very disappointing and hopefully the end of the touted franchise that it could become.