Teenagers often have a hard enough time trying to fit in. Imagine how much more difficult it would be if you were continually the new kid in a new school in a new town, constantly moving to dodge a planet-hopping gang of intergalactic bullies, and part of a super-secret mission to save the cosmos.
Such is the plight of John, the main character in I Am Number Four, the new aliens-among-us sci-fi action thriller.
The title refers to John’s spot on an interplanetary hit list. Numbers one, two and three are toast, and he knows he’s next.
Why John? It turns out he’s one of only a remaining handful of his race—nine, to be exact—who escaped their doomed planet before marauders from another world, Mogdoria, took it over. Hiding out for years now in remote spots all over our relatively peaceful orb and groomed with superpowers, John and his fellow survivors are Earth’s first line of defense as the Mog squad muscles its way onto Main Street, U.S.A.
Based on a young-adult sci-fi novel of the same name published last year, I Am Number Four is clearly shooting to be the Next Big Thing for a youthful audience weaned on the supernatural drama of Harry Potter and Twilight, the Superman spinoff Smallville and TV’s Heroes. The movie’s ending leaves little doubt about its intentions for a sequel.
It’s certainly got the pedigree to go far. Steven Spielberg is a co-producer; so is Michael Bay, who made his name with big-budget blockbusters including Transformers. It’s directed by D.J. Carouso, who hit the teen-market bull’s-eye in 2007 with Disturbia.
And the cast is a deep dish of teen-dreamboat eye candy. Handsome, British-born newcomer Alex Pettyfer plays hunky John, and Dianna Agron, cheerleader Quinn Fabray on TV’s hit Glee, is Sarah, the shy hall mate who captures his heart. You’ll soon be seeing more of Teresa Palmer, who plays sexy, motorcycle-riding biker-chick resistance fighter Number Six, in the upcoming comedy Take Me Home Tonight.
For all its now wow, I Am Number Four has some decidedly old-fashioned touches. One of the movie’s key scenes takes place on at a fall-festival hayride, a setting that could have come straight out of the ‘50s. And Sarah, the arty school shutterbug, uses a clunky 35mm camera and prints her photos in a dimly lit darkroom—anachronisms to anyone under 20 in this digital age.
But the epic computer-generated showdown is settled on a battle zone well known to any teen: high school hallways and the football field.
It won’t win any awards or end up on many best-of lists. But as both Twilight and Harry Potter draw the curtain on their wildly successful movie franchises over the next year and half, I Am Number Four is waiting in the wings, ready—and hoping—to take center stage. Stay tuned.