The book industry is desperately hunting for the next Harry Potter or Twilight, publishing all sorts of teen-targeted series with supernatural themes, and Hollywood has been steadily adapting them, with generally underwhelming results. Add I Am Number Four to the list that includes Eragon and The Spiderwick Chronicles—it’s a mostly dull opening salvo in a series that may never continue, with plotting on the level of a mediocre TV pilot and a thoroughly bland hero at its core. Alex Pettyfer plays the title character, an alien who is one of the last members of his race, hunted by a group of bad guys who wiped out the rest of his people. Aside from some nifty superpowers, though, he’s basically a normal teenager, taking the name John Smith and going to high school in a movie-style small town.
There he finds his one true love (Glee’s Dianna Agron), clashes with a bully and butts heads with his protector/father figure (Timothy Olyphant). The romantic focus makes the movie feel like an alien version of Twilight, although it’s more action-oriented and effects-driven. The mythology is both convoluted and overly familiar, and the actors have trouble selling the dialogue about galactic genocide without making it sound silly. After all the talk about the life-or-death importance of the final battle, the movie ends with an anticlimactic setup for a potential franchise. Like its chaste, chemistry-free central couple, Number Four is all buildup and no release.