Following a frantic chase sequence which shows us the demise of Number Three, Number Four sets the scene with Pettyfer’s calm voiceover explaining that he and eight others are aliens who escaped from the planet Lorien as new-borns. Undesirables the Mogadorians were invading the planet and have now found the nine on Earth and have set about killing them in a ritualistic but necessary fashion – numerical order.
The film is based on the first novel of a six book series aimed at the Twilight saga audience, but unusually the back story is vague compared to other Stephanie Meyer’s vampire story, or J.K. Rowlings muggle on wizard universe. Add to that the cartoonish nature of baddies the Mogadorians, who look like an animalistic ancestor of Eric Bana’s Romulan leader Nero from the latest Star Trek film, and things begin to look a little undercooked.
Enter Glee star Dianna Agron as kooky love interest Sarah Hart, who brings everyman John out of his shell with her love of photography. Though the short run time keeps an uncomfortably fast pace, Agron and Pettyfer convince as they deal with changes far more unusual than the average teen.
Aside from some symbolic scars on his leg, Number Four looks like an average teenager. All that changes with Number Four’s coming-of-age as his ‘Legacy’, or superpower, gives him the (often uncontrollable) ability to shoot light from his hands, in a bizarre cross between Xmen‘s Cyclops and Iron Man, and as his new-found confidence grows so do his powers.
Number Four’s mentor and protector Henri (Timothy Olyphant) keeps things grounded with a great balance beween matter-of-fact humour and stern-faced words of wisdom, but the fun really begins with the arrival of Number Six, Teresa Palmer, previously seen in December Boys and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Her teleportation powers and knife skills instantly add an element of ‘cool’ to proceedings, and Producer Michael Bay’s action streak shines through with a colossal explosion almost the second she appears.
Number Four’s situation becomes increasingly frantic as he battles to deal with his new found power while trying to keep Harri happy and Sarah safe.
The film builds to a crescendo of action as the two alien factions face off in an American football stadium, unfamiliar territory for Director DJ Caruso, previously responsible for the sublime Disturbia and frantic Eagle Eye. With action-man Bay behind him though, Caruso delivers an action spectacle more than adequate to keep the kids entertained.
The twenty year-old Brit Pettyfer holds things together fairly comfortably in what could be the first of six films, but with such expectation you can’t help but wonder if the film is just a bit too close to the norm to bring audiences back.
James Michael Parry