New thriller swings from action to blandness

I Am Number Four sort of looks like your run-of-the-mill sci-fi ride, infiltrated by the spirit of this generation’s sensitive bloodsuckers. Thanks Twilight. Thanks a bunch.

John (Alex Pettyfer) and Number Six (Teresa Palmer) battle enemies sent to destroy them in I Am Number Four

John (Alex Pettyfer) and Number Six (Teresa Palmer) battle enemies sent to destroy them in I Am Number Four

It could’ve been worse. He could’ve been a vampire.

And really, I Am Number Four sort of looks like your run-of-the-mill sci-fi ride, infiltrated by the spirit of this generation’s sensitive bloodsuckers. Thanks Twilight. Thanks a bunch.

Based on the novel by Jobie Hughes and James Frey, I Am Number Four is a collision between an angst-ridden teen movie and an adrenaline-jammed action flick. Brit Alex Pettyfer (who took an earlier swing at a franchise with Alex Rider: Stormbreaker, only to strike out) plays the lead as John, one of nine ‘gifted’ children rescued from his home planet when it was overrun by Mogadorians, the gruesome baddies still hunting him on our turf.

Paradise, Ohio, is the exact battleground. That’s where John (real name Daniel, by the way) is hiding out, attending high school, flirting with an attractive girl (Diana Agron, Glee), dodging her bully-jock ex-boyfriend (Jake Abel) and trying to live a normal life. Or as normal as you can get when you’ve got glowing palms and you’re the target of ray guns, alien torture balls and some kind of lizard tracking dogs.

Director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) knows how to slap together a relatively suspenseful film, and I Am Number Four is no exception — when it has to cook, it cooks. But it’s also, given the potential for some real edge, surprisingly bland. Perhaps it’s because the presentation borrows so many elements from so many movies. I Am Number Four often resembles a highlight reel from everything from The Fantastic Four to Percy Jackson. It just doesn’t have its own identity.

It is loud and energetic enough to escape dullsville, though. It ain’t great … but it ain’t exactly a number two either.

Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give I Am Number Four a two and a half. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.

Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.