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I Am Number Four, as directed by D.J. Caruso (Eagle Eye, Disturbia), would have made a fantastic television pilot. In telling the story of an alien on the run from extra-terrestrial killers, Caruso sets up a great number of potentially interesting characters and plot points. On top of that, the effects would have been amazing for television. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a pilot, but rather, a story with a lot of missing pieces and effects that fall short of cinematic expectations.
As written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon (all very successful writers of genre-based television), I Am Number Four feels nothing short of incomplete. Alex Pettyfer plays “John Smith,” the fourth in a line of nine Loriens who fled to Earth after the evil Mogadorians destroyed their home planet. For reasons never explained, the Loriens can only be killed in sequence, and as the title indicates, John is number four. Guiding John through his life on Earth is a Lorien guardian/warrior named Henri (Timothy Olyphant). Henri serves as a guide to both John and to the audience, providing key exposition throughout. Confusing matters, there is also a random lizard/dog/alien thing that I think is supposed to be like a bodyguard, but again, this is never explained.
In case it’s not obvious yet, it is very frustrating how much appears to be missing from the film. A box from John’s father is introduced and frequently referenced as if it is going to be a pivotal plot device, and a payoff is never provided. I’m sure that items such as the box, along with some details as to the film’s seemingly detailed mythology were being held for the anticipated sequel. I’ve always felt that in any good franchise, each individual film needs to be able to stand on it’s own, while still providing setups and payoffs from the other films. On it’s own, this film doesn’t work. There’s just too much left unexplained.