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Cinema in Focus: ‘I Am Number Four’ Falls Short

While it offers a unique blend of coming-of-age and science fiction, it lacks depth and quality

2 Stars — Shallow

Coming of age is difficult enough without having to do so on a planet that is not your own. That is the premise of the science fiction/action film I Am Number Four, which explores the experience of one of nine young children whose parents sent them to Earth to save them from the genocidal invasion of the Mogadorians.

But now, as each is coming into their unique powers, the Mogadorians have come to destroy them, invade Earth and kill everyone. This happy little tale is directed by D.J. Caruso and centers on the fourth of these aliens, who goes by the human name of John Smith (Alex Pettyfer).

Although indistinguishable from his human high school peers, John nevertheless finds it difficult to blend in. This makes him vulnerable to the Mogadorian hunters. But his chances to evade them and survive are increased by his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant), whose responsibility it is to watch over him until he becomes fully grown.

But into John’s violent and lonely world comes love. After demanding that he risk his life to attend high school even though Numbers One, Two and Three have been killed and he knows that he is next, John finds Sarah (Dianna Agron). Their mutual attraction is immediate and love blossoms quickly. It is only after their budding romance is evident that Henri informs John that their species falls in love only once and it lasts forever. This monogamous biology gives a compelling message about the nature of true love.

A complicating factor in the tale is Sarah’s former boyfriend Mark (Jake Abel), the quarterback of their school’s football team whose jealousy is taken out on John in ways that intensify his struggle to fit in. Also included in the tale is John’s human friend Sam (Callan McAuliffe), a brilliant science student whose father had disappeared in search of aliens. Both join John’s journey in ways that uniquely determine his path.

Suspenseful yet predictable, with violent creatures and villains, I am Number Four is an unusual blend of a coming-of-age film with science fiction, but in the final analysis, it is a teen movie with a decidedly comic-book feel.

Discussion:

» 1. When our bodies change in our teen years, our view of ourselves changes as well. As you watched John become aware of who he really is, did you identify with him? In what ways were you like him and in what ways were you different in your teen years?

» 2. The romantic ideal of falling in love with one person for life is expressed in this film. Do you believe this may be true of humans but we’re ignoring it? Why?

» 3. The appearance of Number Six (Teresa Palmer) helped John understand that it is in unity that evil can be defeated. Do you think evil can be defeated in real life? Do you believe unity is the necessary ingredient for that defeat?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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