1 March 2011


Here's one that's real difficult to write about. It's not a case of hating it for producer and twatbag Michael Bay's involvement, because I recognise that Bay can be said to have a technical aptitude for filmmaking. What makes I Am Number Four such an unsavoury spectacle is that its genesis is entirely what I would previously have imagined the genesis of a Michael Bay project to be- the product of an assembly line.

As to the story, this Twi-lite fantasy flick follows Number Four, one of nine aliens who survived a planetary holocaust in another solar system and fled from the genocidal Mogadorians to Earth. Outright stealing the Doctor's alias, he styles himself as John Smith, a high school student in small-town America. With the Mogadorians on his tail, it emerges that they're killing off the aliens in order, and three have died already, leaving Number Four next in line.

Look, the story behind the book this was based on can be found on other sites, so I'm not going to recap it and overwhelm my review of the film. However, I recommend that you read about the controversy behind this film because it informs the level of suckiness on which it operates. As I've said, it's Twilight-lite, which means that it's something so insubstantial that it's almost ethereal. It more or less flips around the premise 180 degrees- a boy has supernatural powers, a bored small-town girl falls in love, but this time the boy is our hero.

Presumably, the idea is to try and get the insensible target audience for most of Michael Bay's films, 14 year old boys, to go and see a film that is like Twilight, which in turn appeals to Twilight fans, and thus results in huge profit. Whether or not it will work remains to be seen, but it is nevertheless a product of shameless mathematics, rather than anything even resembling imagination. The various elements are not trans-generic, but intertextual- there is literally nothing in here that is not from another text, but names have been changed to protect the unoriginal bastards peddling it.

Bay's gaze is so fixated on sequels, and on box office success, and on replicating the successful formula of other films, that it is impossible to engage with it. I mention Bay and not director DJ Caruso because there was a long period where Bay was attached to direct this thing. It shows, and it's a shame that Caruso, who previously made the noirish and intriguing The Salton Sea, has devolved into a director for hire. There's no room for much of anything creative, because everybody involved is complicit with the formula.

For their part, the cast do alright- there are no casting gaffes as monumentally shit as Shia LaBeouf or Megan Fox, but they're all in stock roles. Alex Pettyfer is the incredibly athletic and dreamy guy who somehow still gets bullied because he's new at school. Dianna Agron is the cute girl who, in this case, is a little bit stalk-y in her amateur photography pursuits. Timothy Olyphant is Henri (Wan Kenobi), a mentor character for whom the only surprise is whether or not he'll turn out to be the traitor behind it all or the guy who sacrifices himself so Number Four can win the day. Kevin Durand is a goddamn skinhead in a trenchcoat. That's what we're dealing with.

And for all of its predictability, it's deceptively difficult to follow. I get that Number Four's goal is to avoid being stabbed up by Mogadorians, but the world building becomes so convoluted, so intent on dangling loose threads for a sequel hook, that it becomes incomprehensible. When it turns into the Transformers patented action clusterfuck in the final act, the only discernible goal remains "don't get killed". Quite an elementary quest in a fantasy film, right?

At least in other franchise non-starters, there was more self-containment. They bothered to tell stories that established the world and left their unrequited sequel hooks to the final shots. I Am Number Four builds a world with its sequel hooks, because it's so bland and forgettable that it's counting on becoming a massive movie series just so it has some continued significance once the credits start rolling. The film is one that's looking forward to its own ending so it can make some money. I was just looking forward to it ending.

I Am Number Four is now showing in cinemas nationwide,
If you've seen I Am Number Four, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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