Making the Grades
If I Am Number Four doesn’t feel like a plot you’ve seen at least a half dozen times in the last year, then you probably don’t watch a lot of movies. This is a by-the-numbers script with themes from Superman, X-Men and a little bit of Twilight all wrapped up together.
Having said that, I Am Number Four doesn’t deserve a total bypass—particularly for older teens. The movie stars British actor Alex Pettyfer (once ranked number 21 on Glamour magazine’s sexiest men list) as an alien from a decimated planet. He, along with eight other children and their guardians, were rushed to Earth during their civilization’s dying days. Taking on the handsomest of human characteristics, they have gone undercover to avoid being killed by the Mogadorians, a group of tall, tattooed, trench coat clad, interplanetary killers who are hunting them down numerically.
Unfortunately for John Smith (Pettyfer), one, two and three have been murdered. He is number four. Because of that, he and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) are constantly on the move, reinventing an identity in every location they land in. But Henri’s job of protecting John becomes increasingly difficult thanks to the Internet where kids upload pictures of their friends and classmates anytime they want. With John’s good looks, he regularly appears on high school web pages.
Following a supernatural event at a beach party in Florida that is immediately posted on Youtube, Henri and John are forced to move again, settling temporarily in the small town of Paradise, Ohio where John meets Sam (Callan McAuliffe) and Sarah (Dianna Agron). Both of them are outsiders in their own way—Sam because he believes in the possibility of aliens, Sarah because she dumped the school’s quarterback and has suffered the repercussions of her decision ever since.
In Paradise, John tries to keep a low profile—something that is hard to do for a boy who loves showboating and standing up for the underdog. But avoiding attention doesn’t last long when his hands start glowing in the middle of science class. Unbeknownst to him, he has just entered a kind of extraterrestrial puberty where his superpowers suddenly manifest themselves, as do the Mogadorians.
The high intensity battles that ensue include the use of gigantic guns and curved knifes that cause stabbing victims to turn to ash and blow away. And though Henri and John are aliens, they still bleed very human-looking blood when they are injured during hand-to-hand combat. Oversized alien creatures, the local sheriff (Jeff Hochendoner) and an explosive Number Six (Teresa Palmer) also get drawn into the fray that ultimately plays out in the local football stadium, leaving the gridiron in a deplorable state for the next home game.
Hitting all the expected chords, including a romantic interest between a high school girl and a nonhuman, the script feels like a repeat of a repeat. Yet other than the mandatory violence needed to fight off alien invaders, the film contains a marginal degree of content that may cause parental concern for older teen viewers. As well, there are some positive depictions of a stable and happy home life, something that John longs to have.
The most disappointing element happens in the final moments of the movie where three characters (I won’t tell you which ones) set out to search for others like themselves. While this inadequate ending leaves the film wide open for a sequel, riding off into the sunset is a scenario that seems best reserved for Westerns.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about I Am Number Four.
Why is John so taken with Sarah’s home and family life? What does he appreciate about them that she doesn’t? What positive rituals do these members engage in? How would you feel about turning in your cell phone during dinner?
Henri reminds John that many people have sacrificed for his safety and wellbeing. Why doesn’t John initially appreciate those individuals? Who has sacrificed on your behalf?
What dangers does John face after having his picture posted on the Internet? What repercussions may occur for others who have their image uploaded? Should an individual have to get permission from his or her friends before putting their picture on the web?