I Am Number Four (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by D.J. Caruso
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 109 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 44.99
Release Date: May 24, 2011
Review Date: May 11, 2011
Only the lavish budget spent for millions upon millions of dollars worth of special effects will differentiate D.J. Caruso’s I Am Number Four from any number of made-for-TV films produced for the Disney Channel. Creating a sci-fi adventure tale aimed mainly at the teenaged audience, I Am Number Four comes with all the clichés of the teen genre: a romantic triangle featuring the headstrong protagonist against a bullying teen and his cronies as they fight for a teen princess, misunderstood geek taken under the wing of the protagonist, and an ultimate showdown against a number of villains. The sci-fi twist offers a few fun moments, but the real shame is that with some thinking outside the standard teen box, this movie could have been something special. Instead, it’s really not much different from lots of teenage angst movies about alienation, struggles to fit in, and budding relationships. All of those special effects don’t change the fact that if you’ve watched many films with teenaged characters, you’ve seen this basic tale many times before.
“John Smith” (Alex Pettyfer) and his warrior/protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) are aliens from the planet Lorien living on Earth and attempting to blend in and find the other eight survivors from the planet now on Earth. They’re aware, however, that they’re being hunted by the Mogadorians who must kill the Loriens in order. John is number four on the list, and with each kill, a tattoo ignites his skin to let him know where he stands on the survival chart. The death of number three puts John and Henri in flight once again leaving Florida and venturing to Paradise, Ohio, where John meets up with geeky Sam (Callan McAuliffe) whose father has disappeared under unusual circumstances, the sweet and gorgeous Sarah (Dianna Agron), and Sarah’s former boy friend and all-around jerk/bully Mark (Jake Abel). Despite Henri’s pleas for John to keep a low profile to evade the ever-vigilant Mogadorians, he can’t help defending his new friends against the bullying Mark. John also becomes painfully aware that he’s got some long-gestating powers which might come in handy against his enemies both human and alien if he can master them, but there are other forces operating around him that he’s unaware of and may prove to be either helps or hindrances.
The banality of the scripting shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that the three screenwriters (Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Marti Noxon ) all hail from television where this kind of narrative shorthand is often used to push forward teen stories. But so much more could have been developed with an interesting character like Sam who has a fascinating backstory with his real father, a UFO expert who’s now missing and possibly alien-abducted, exploring John and his powers, and putting what they know together to help the duo defeat the aliens in cleverer ways than the mounds of FX shootouts we inevitably get for a climax. It’s no surprise that Michael Bay is one of the film’s producers; his stamp of generic bombast is on every frame of the genuinely unsurprising and unsatisfying conclusion, a massive conflagration that burns up the football field and blows out all of the school’s windows doesn’t seem to even scorch its wooden doors. (A sequel is also set up in the movie’s final minutes though the film’s lackluster box-office doesn’t seem to bode well for that.) What style the film does possess comes in one outstanding sequence, a “forest of horrors” excursion where the special aural and video effects along with excellent pacing and delivery produce a deliciously madcap few minutes that offers the very thrills that the loud but lazy conclusion lacks.
Alex Pettyfer and Dianna Agron are both blandly blonde but don’t generate many sparks as the focal couple. He especially never expresses his real wonder at his escalating powers (compare that to Daniel Radcliffe’s sense of joy and astonishment as his Harry Potter grows in ability over the course of a film.) Dianna Agron, familiar to TV viewers as Quinn on Glee¸ doesn’t stray far from that characterization with her Sarah no more or less appealing than her Quinn. More interesting is Timothy Olyphant as John’s protector Henri though the superb actor has been let down with an underwritten character that doesn’t get to show many emotions other than his wariness and disparagement at John’s risk-taking. Callan McAuliffe shows more sparkle and pluck as the bullied Sam while Jake Abel’s predictable tormentor Mark has a last reel attitude adjustment that plays completely false. Kevin Durand enjoys his elaborate makeup as the chief alien adversary, and Teresa Palmer as Number Six, another escapee from Lorien, gets to show her Lara Croft-style moves and Aussie accent on any who get in her way.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully replicated here in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Generally great looking in all departments (sharpness, contrast, color resolution, flesh tones, black levels), only a couple of shots with less than optimum sharpness and some murky shadow detail spoil what would otherwise be a reference transfer. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix, like most modern sci-fi extravaganzas, features terrific resonance throughout the soundfield with many examples of split surrounds in the fronts and rears and great panning effects across and through the soundstage. Music gets woven throughout the available channels and sounds impressive. Dialogue appears in the center channel but is occasionally hard to decipher, either due to actors mumbling or a lack of utmost clarity in the recording.
All video featurettes are presented in 1080p.
There are six deleted/extended scenes which can be viewed individually or in one 19-minute grouping. Director D. J. Caruso introduces each one and explains the reason for its deletion.
“Becoming Number Six” goes behind the scenes with actress Teresa Palmer who describes her role as a “butt-kicking alien.” We see her undergoing physical training, preparing for stunts, and watch her in action during one of the climactic scenes in the movie. This runs 11 ¾ minutes.
The film’s blooper reel runs 3 ¼ minutes.
The disc offers promo trailers for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Real Steel¸ and the ABC drama series on DVD.
Disc two in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
Disc three in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
3/5 (not an average)
I Am Number Four is a disappointing excursion into sci-fi for teens relying on too-familiar plot formulas and predictable special effects that don’t really dazzle. A modest bonus feature package completes the pedestrian efforts of this release.