Monday, March 7, 2011

I Am Number Four (Film)

Release date: 2011. Performers: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Teresa Palmer, Dianna Agron, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand. Studio: DreamWorks. Director: D.J. Caruso. Screenplay: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Narti Noxon. Based on novel I Am Number Four (2010) by Jobie Hughes and James Frey.

Plot summary: Number Four, an alien refugee from the planet Lorien, is living on Earth with his guardian, Henri. The two are constantly on the run from the evil Mogadorians, a monstrous race of aliens who destroyed their home planet and will not stop until those who fled are killed. When Number Four develops a painful scar on his leg, he knows that Number Three has been killed by the Mogadorians. Since the nine children who fled Lorien have to be killed in order, he knows he’s next. Henri and Number Four move to Paradise, Ohio, where Number Four becomes John Smith. John begins high school where he meets Sam, a nerdy outcast who is constantly bullied, and Sarah, an intriguing photographer. Henri warns John not to get too close to any of his classmates, but, as John and Sarah develop a romantic relationship, John is unsure if he can spend the rest of his life on the run.

Review:  This highly anticipated movie adaptation of best-selling novel I Am Number Four (2010) is visually thrilling and contains some exciting moments, but ultimately falls short of its potential. The novel is quite lengthy (448 pages), and provides a detailed look into the lives of Number Four, Henri and the history of their planet, Lorien. The movie, however, barely scratches the surface of the backstory of the Lorien refugees, introducing plot elements and objects with no explanation to their meaning. In doing so, the richness of the novel does not make it into the movie version, leaving only a typical action-film full of visual effects. Some ‘tweens will undoubtedly enjoy the movie, with heartthrobs Alex Pettyfer and Teresa Palmer and Glee cast member Dianna Agron lighting up the screen with their beauty. But those young viewers searching for substance will be left wanting more and, hopefully, turning to the novel to fill in the gaps.

Genre: Action/Science Fiction/Romance

Interest age: MPAA PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and language. Most likely will appeal to ages 10 and up.

Similar titles:  Twilight (2008), New Moon (2009), Eclipse (2010), Jumper (2008).

Personal thoughts:  As a fan of the novel, I was really looking forward to the movie version of I Am Number Four. Unfortunately, I was fairly disappointed with the result. The movie was not a terrible adaptation (i.e. the film version of The Golden Compass), but many plot elements from the novel were unnecessarily omitted. The back-story of how Henri and Number Four came to be living on Earth was a very important part of the novel, but was completely left out of the movie. For those who hadn’t read the book, much of the story would have been quite confusing. The movie also played up the character of Number Six, who only appeared in the last few chapters of the novel, no doubt to highlight beautiful actress, Teresa Palmer. Although I’m sure many ‘tweens would enjoy this film, I would not recommend it as a faithful adaptation of the novel.

Themes: Aliens, constant moving, romance, danger.  

Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from Arizona Republic, Los Angeles Times, Variety and Boston Globe. Based on best-selling novel.

Series Information:  Second novel, The Power of Six, to be released in 2011. Movie version to follow.

Character information:

Number Four/John Smith – Seventeen-year-old alien from the planet Lorien. He has spent his life with his guardian, Henri, on the run from an evil race of aliens, the Mogadorians. Moves to Paradise, Ohio where he falls in love with classmate, Sarah.

Henri – Number Four’s guardian. He constantly urges Number Four to keep a low profile and protect his true identity.

Sarah – Seventeen-year-old high school senior. Loves photography, and is constantly hounded by ex-boyfriend, Mark. Falls in love with Number Four after they meet in high school.

Sam – High school student who is constantly bullied for being “nerdy.” Befriends Number Four.
Number Six – Seventeen-year-old alien from the planet Lorien. Her guardian was killed and she is searching for Number Four, believing that uniting will make them more powerful to fight the Mogadorians.

Mark – High school bully and ex-boyfriend of Sarah. He pulls several pranks on Number Four and is jealous of his relationship with Sarah.

Annotation: He has spent his life on the run from the aliens who destroyed his home planet. But how long can Number Four keep his true identity a secret after he falls in love?

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