Dual Review: “I am Number Four”, From A Reviewer Who’s Read The Book And A Reviewer Who Hasn’t

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This is a review of the movie I am Number Four from two different points of view–from someone who has read the book the movie was based off of, and from someone who hasn’t. Check it out to see if this movie is for you. Not sure what it is about? Below is the trailer.

Jackie: Did not read the book

I am neither passionate for nor against this movie. It was entertaining, yet typical.

The premise itself is rather unique. A good alien boy comes here to earth and spends his youth running from the bad aliens. He is not alone – there are eight others like him (all gifted with spectacularly cool powers) and they can only be killed in a specific order. Neato. So far I’m on board. Sounds like this cat and mouse game between the two alien races could get pretty suspenseful… except it doesn’t.

Most of this movie’s attempt to build tension is spent within the personal lives of the characters, not on the fact that the main character, John Smith, is being hunted like a fawning animal. Admittedly, I have a very low tolerance for teenage melodrama. Of course dramatic character relationship-based issues have their place in the genre, but could we at least be a little creative about it?

The signature school jock is beating up on the signature school nerd. Our hero defends said nerd while simultaneously falling for the school jock’s coveted ex-girlfriend. I’m pretty sure some version of this plot-line has been done in every teen movie since the 80s. Worse, this storyline isn’t a sub-plot that nicely perfumes the core plot of the alien invasion – it became the central area of focus.  Sure, there are war-mongering, blood-thirsty, highly-trained alien beings who want to rip the main character apart and then proceed to rape and pillage the entire planet, but what John Smith is really worried about is the big, bad school bully. This movie managed to take an original story premise and make it completely typical.

To this movie’s credit, it did a good job of divulging information to those of us who have not read the series. Most of the time when I watch one of these movies without having explored the original format, I find myself raising an eyebrow and feeling there were major gaps that should have been filled, though I had no idea what exactly those gaps might be, considering I never read the book. I did not have this feeling when watching I am Number 4. Did they leave stuff out? Probably. But they were at least subtle about it.

I am Number 4 wasn’t a complete flop. The actors had some talent. The action scene at the end was worth the wait. The way that the powers were portrayed was pretty darn cool. Worth paying $15 bucks? Eh… I’d wait to get it on netflix for free.

Lauren: Did read the book

I absolutely adored the book I am Number Four. It was one of the best books I read last year. The tension was so well-written that I couldn’t put it down. So, when I saw the movie was due out soon, I got really excited to see the story I loved on the big screen. How many movies from books fail to live up to the amazing stories that are created between the pages? Lots of them. Most of them, really. So I should have been prepared to be disappointed.

The movie followed the book pretty well, honestly. Obviously there are always going to be little changes, and there definitely were a few of those, but overall, the movie stuck to the plot that was set in the book. And it should—the rights to the movie were purchased before the book was even completed, and apparently some changes were made to the book to match the movie. So in that area, the movie was great, and the story I knew was being played out in front of my eyes.

However, there just wasn’t any tension. Even the scenes that were supposed to have me gripping the armrests in terror didn’t even make me blink an eye. All the elements were there, but I felt nothing. No suspense. No excitement. Nothing. That was the worst part for me, the fact that the book had elicited such a strong emotional reaction in me and the movie didn’t even cause my emotions to register, they were so nonexistent.

The main actors did a stellar job, and I wasn’t pulled out of the story by any shoddy acting skills—for the most part. There was one character that was terribly done, and that was Number Six. The girl was all bad-ass leather knuckle guards and cheesy one-liners. And don’t forget the slow-motion walk away from the building that was blown up. The only redeeming factor in this character was her powers, which were portrayed very nicely. But overall, a huge disappointment in that character.

Did it have awesome action scenes? You betcha. The ending was the best part of the movie, and seeing the two alien teens using their gifts was pretty cool. Plus, the scene involving Number Four’s dog fighting off an alien monster was pretty amazing (and was the part of the movie with the most tension for me). But sadly, that’s about it.

Was it worth the money? Lucky for us we went on five dollar night, so I’d say yes. But will I see it again? No way, at least not in theaters. The book is too beloved to me for me to watch a watered- down version of the story that the words had created in my head. If you haven’t read the book, and the story sounds at all interesting, READ THE BOOK (need a summary? Check out the description in the Lytherus holiday review). If you’ve read the book and want to watch the movie, go in knowing you won’t be nearly as satisfied. All the parts were there, but they just didn’t add up to something extraordinary. If you keep this in mind, and go just to enjoy the decent effects, the attractive actors, and the good acting, you should be fine.

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