Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Film #22 I Am Number Four

In which Anglo-hunk Alex Pettyfer is an alien in human form with extraordinary powers. He is of only nine such creatures (he is number four, of course) who survived the destruction of their homeworld and were salted away on Earth by their prescient forebears. Now, however, they are being hunted down in numerical order (why numerical order? We'll never know) by the same nasty folk who wiped out their civilization in the first place - one, two and three have bitten the dust and now it's his turn. Where's the best place to hide? In an all-American high school, of course, thus permitting angsty teen romance to blossom (think Buffy, replace the vampires with aliens and remove the pop-cultural smartness).

So the story is as archetypal as they come (nothing wrong with that, of course) and as a deeply cynical and snobby thirty-year-old I am a fair distance from its target demographic of Twilight-ey teenagers. But you know, it's not that bad. Of course, there are any number of problems with it: the dialogue is parody-level stupid and the plot is holier than a king-size packet of Polos, with more extraordinary coincidences and inconsistencies of character and storyline than should be reasonably expected (it's seriously not worth examining it too far - these are Independence Day levels of silliness) and yet somehow these don't really matter.

The point is that there are swoony teens, lots of whizz-bang special-effects and some (but not enough) good action sequences. Also, the villains are very silly and lots of fun - imagine WWE superstars with Maori tattoos and black Once Upon A Time In The West dusters - and they get all of the best lines. In short - it's a genre piece aimed at teens, and it wouldn't be correct to impose the same kind of scrutiny that you might apply to the latest Scorsese flick.

Even so, there are flaws beyond the silliness noted above. For one, it is too long: at eleven minutes short of two hours, it needs a good thirty minutes shaving off it and by the time we reach the big fight at the end we're flagging a little bit. There is a jocks vs. nerds subplot that doesn't quite work and could quite feasibly have been ditched without impacting the main story, and there's some quasi-X-files conspiracy theory nonsense also feels out of place. Finally, the action - there isn't enough of it. We get a bit at the beginning (though the colour wash makes it difficult to make out what's going on) but then there's an awful lot of moping before we get any more serious fighting.

All that being said, it is still quite refreshing to watch something so played utterly straight and free of irony, and when we finally do reach the final battle it's all well choreographed and good fun. It's instantly forgettable and very silly with problems galore, but I can't say I hated it.


Screening notes:

I am a magnetic, charismatic individual. Your mum loves me. Your girlfriend loves me. So does your boyfriend. And your kids. How else can I explain the fact that - regardless of how empty the cinema is, how bad my view is (and believe me, I've been driven to sitting in the furthest recesses of the theatre), or even how much of a sweat I've worked up from cycling to the cinema - fellow moviegoers are queuing up (sometimes literally) to sit next to me, behind me, in front of me or on one occasion, either side of me?

Sorry to rant, but this is an ongoing issue that I simply cannot explain and short of dowsing myself in castor oil I don't know what to do.

On the plus side though, I got into the screen about ten minutes before the ads rolled and was treated to a selection of late-Disney show tunes (e.g. 'A Whole New World', 'You Got A Friend In Me') which got me in a very positive mood.