I Am Number Four
Ride the lightning
It’s been five years since Alex Rider broke the storm, and the actor who played him has grown into a fine young man, all Romanesque stature and grave performance style.
Alex Pettyfer plays the eponymous fourth of a team of nine “beings” from another planet, whose lives are in danger. Having wound up on Earth (it’s entirely possible the voiceover explains why, but I can’t recall), he masquerades as high-school student John Smith in human form, moving from town to town with his guardian, Henri, as evil beings from another planet hunt him and the rest of his kind to extinction. Discouraged from making friends or bonding with anyone, John’s good looks and unassuming manner naturally get him attention from the artistic and beautiful Sarah (Dianna Agron).
The story isn’t complicated, mixing traditional high-school bullying into a sci-fi thriller, but it is suitably engaging and well-told. Kiwi audiences will see similarities with “Under the Mountain”, as the sinister Mogadorians channel the Wilberforces in their long dark trenchcoats, tracking their prey by scent. There are plenty of frights, and the inevitable battle scenes are sufficiently gripping.
I Am Number Four is an unexpectedly good addition to its genre – that of teenagers with extraordinary powers fighting for love, and against evil. More nuanced than the Twilight films (and thankfully eschewing the sub-plot of a love triangle which is, as that series drags on, now just plain boring), Four boasts a fine cast who take their roles just seriously enough to play them with meaning, without turning to hokum. Timothy Olyphant, who is forging a career in movies and critically-acclaimed TV series in equal part, plays the extra-terrestrial warrior who protects John, and relative newcomer Callan McAuliffe does a fine job as conspiracy theorist, Sam.
Here’s hoping there’s a Number Five.