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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: I Am Number Four

May 22nd, 2011

I Am Number Four - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray, or Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

Harry Potter changed the box office world and ever since the boy wizard made the successful transition from page to screen, studios have been eagerly trying to find the next mega-franchise. A film series that can last a decade and pull in billion after billion at the worldwide box office. I Am Number Four is the latest in the long line of contenders for the next big franchise, but so far only a handful have done well enough to justifying even talk of a sequel. None have challenged Harry Potter's dominance at the box office. Will I Am Number Four finally break that streak? Or will it be just another wannabe?

The Movie

After a prologue in which we see two people living in a hut killed by three creatures, we jump to Alex Pettyfer, as Daniel, who is doing jumps on his skidoo in the ocean. That night he goes to a party on the beach with the girl of his dreams. Life is good. Unfortunately, something happens. He sees a vision and he starts glowing. And since there were witnesses, he and his guardian, Henri, have to abandon their old life and go on the run.

While on the road, Daniel, now John Smith, tells us his story. He is one of nine aliens from the planet Lorien, who were sent to Earth after their planet was invaded by the Mogadorians. They were special kids with powers that were supposed to help protect their people, but they never got the chance. Now, the nine kids are on Earth, each with a guardian, but all are being chased by the Mogadorians, but they have to be killed in order. With the first three dead, John Smith knows he's next. John and Henri arrive in their new home of Paradise, Ohio and John is told to lay low.

Meanwhile, back at their old home in Florida, we see some woman ransacking the place looking for something, but we don't know what. Having found nothing of value, she turns on the gas and destroys the place. We know she's not human, as she's engulfed in the flames, but walks away unharmed.

Despite being told to law low, John heads off to school, and immediately attracts the attention of Sarah, and shortly after that, the attention of her ex-boyfriend, Mark, who is the school bully and targets Sam, a science nerd / conspiracy theorist. Soon his attempts to go under the radar begin to fail and the Mogadorians are on his trail, as is the mysterious woman.

So now John has to deal with bullies at school, a budding romance, a conspiracy theorist that could uncover his secret, his growing power, plus this mysterious woman following him, and that's on top of the Mogadorians trying to kill him.

I Am Number Four is based on the first of a possible series of books, but it feels like it is a collection of elements from other movies. The super hero dealing with a high school bully while pinning for said bullies girlfriend feels pulled straight out of Spider-Man. And that's not a minor part of the film, but a major thread of the plot. When John's power manifests in school and that nearly gets him in trouble, that too feels borrowed from Spider-man. The sense of Deja Vu is overpowering.

I don't think the film is helped by its lead either. I've heard a lot of people say Alex Pettyfer is going to be a major A-list star. He was even named the Male Star of Tomorrow at last year's ShoWest convention. But so far he hasn't shown that he has what it takes to carry a film. He could probably be a star on a Teenage Soap Opera, like the kind that populates the CW these days, but being an action hero? I'm not buying it, at least not so far. Timothy Olyphant is good, as usual, but this film is a bit of a paycheck movie. Likewise, Teresa Palmer is good in a role that is too short. Dianna Agron shows some depth as the slightly more complicated romantic figure, but the rest of the cast are filled with characters that can best be described as underwritten.

I wish I could say the action scenes save the movie, but the film spends too much time on the mopey teenage romance, and when we do get some action, it tends to take place at night in badly lit scenes.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD are limited to a 12-minute featurette called Becoming Number Six, which looks at Teresa Palmer's character. Quite frankly, if they do make another movie in this series, her character would be the biggest selling point for me. There are also 3 minutes of outtakes. That's simply not enough for a first run release, so the DVD is strictly a rental.

The Blu-ray has that, plus six deleted / extended scenes with a total running time of 19 minutes, including introductions by D.J. Caruso, the director. It's nice to get some additional extras, even if they don't push the capabilities of Blu-ray. This version costs 35% more, which is inline with expectations, maybe a little high.

The Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack costs just $2 more than the Blu-ray itself, so if you like having the Blu-ray as well as the DVD, this is clearly the best deal.

As for the film's tech specs, I did have some issue with the action scenes being too dark, which means a lot of details were swallowed by the shadows. I'm not sure if this is a problem with the video transfer, or a problem with artistic intent, but it has to be mentioned. On the other hand, when it is daytime, the film looks flawless. It has amazing colors, sharp details, deep blacks, etc. The audio is even more impressive with excellent use of the surround sound speakers for both directional effect, immersion, ambiance, etc. Top notch in every regard.

The Verdict

I was hoping I Am Number Four would be better than this. It's too derivative and the characters are too underwritten to be compelling. Neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray have much in the way of extras, and while the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is the best deal, the overall value is just at the rental level.

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