I Am Number Four

"An enjoyable romp."

It makes perfect sense that a film produced by Michael Bay starts with a wide shot of the entire world. We then pan in, closer, closer, until finally we find ourselves in a hut, in the rain forest. Two men are clearly hiding out, on the lam, each snug in their veiled hammock, trying to get some sleep. But wait! A noise, at the door -- though who could be happening upon them in such a remote location? Mogadorians! What's a Mogadorian? It's a bad guy! Oh no, they are chasing one of the "good" guys! But who are these "good" guys?
That's essentially the plot of I Am Number Four, the story of the "good" guys being sequentially hunted down and murdered by Mogadorians. There are nine (total) quasi-heroes, called Loriens, and each is protected by something akin to a bodyguard / mentor. To give away more of the plot would be a disservice, so let's just call this a "thriller," note the hunter/prey relationship, and break down who does what in the film.
Alex Pettyfer is the young Lorien named John; his protector is played by Timothy Olyphant. They find themselves on the run, quite often, moving from Florida to Paradise, Ohio, at the drop of a hat, all to stay one step ahead of the evil Mogs. And boy howdy, are these Mogs nasty bastards. They are all about tracking, killing, and looking menacing. They also have what appear to be gills on their cheeks. They're planning some sort of Earth invasion, but their motives are left mercifully cloudy. They are simple creatures, and their single-mindedness leaves little room for introspection or sympathy. If you're looking for a cinematic pedigree, the bad guys from Superman all the way back in 1980 come to mind.
So that's the setup: good vs. evil, the hunters pursuing the hunted. We've seen it hundreds of times before, and it never makes or breaks a film. With a concept like this, it always comes down to the details, the execution. Which, surprisingly, is where I Am Number Four thrives.
I Am Number Four flies along thanks to decent dialogue, a purposeful pace, and an overall vibe of mysterious creepiness. Little nuggets of knowledge are sprinkled throughout the film that enhance the depth of each character, and John meets a girl (Dianna Agron from Glee), which only makes his flight from the Mogs more difficult. There's also a fairly prevalent "new kid in high school" angle, as John is a teenager on the run and all his interactions are heightened by lack of experience. Did I mention the beagle? There's a beagle, played by a dog actor, who adds a little something into the mix as well.
At this point I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the supernatural angle of I Am Number Four. You see, certain characters have powers, alien powers they don't quite understand, powers that they can use against the Mogs when things are at their darkest. The CGI is professionally handled and doesn't detract from the film's emotional resonance. The soundtrack is another boon to the material -- some of the artists featured include Adele, Letters from the Sky, and the Temper Trap. It's a moody alt soundtrack, and it elevates the impact of the visuals.
I Am Number Four is a February thriller that moves, and a film that desperately cries out for a sequel. It's not perfect, and there are a few random asides that seem to be a function of tackling such a broad story, but overall the movie works and is routinely entertaining. The prominently featured young actors carry the story on their shoulders and the concepts presented are compelling. Perhaps February's recent history as a movie "dumping ground" has me feeling overly generous, but I Am Number Four was an enjoyable romp.

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