After the near extermination of their entire civilization, nine survivors and their guardians traveled to Earth to lay in hiding from their pursuers, the Mogadorians. These attackers are required to kill the survivors in their numeric order. Having successfully tracked down and killed three Lorienians, the Mogadorians are now in pursuit of Number 4. Although completely aware of his background, John Smith has settled in with his Floridian crowd. When his leg burns in the third symbol of a lost Lorienian, Henri (his guardian) puts them on the run to Paradise, Ohio. Told to keep a low profile, John is able to fight to at least continue to attend school like a normal teenager. Failing to stay in the shadows, John manages to become a target for humiliation from the football team, develop a new friendship with a social outcast (Sam) and feel new emotions for a photographer who may be more trouble than he realizes. John finds himself juggling his newly developing powers, growing love for Sarah, conflicts with Henri and safety from the Mogadorians.
Starring: Alex Pettyfer (John Smith), Timothy Olyphant (Henri), Teresa Palmer (Number 6), Dianna Argon (Sarah Hart), Callan McAuliffe (Sam), Kevin Durand (Mogadorian Commander), Jake Abel (Mark James), Jeff Hochendoner (Sheriff James), Patrick Sebes (Kevin), Greg Townley (Number 3)
The majority of this cast is known for smaller roles in various films and television but they come together well for this teenage novel-based picture. Alex Pettyfer is the start of the film and has seen some success through his other teenager-focued films, including Beastly and Torment. While he went through a humbling process in Beastly, he goes through more of an identity crisis in this film. He portrays his character as a fairly frustrated young man, who struggles mostly through his inability to settle down in an area and actually experience human teenage life. When his love interest enters the scene, his frustration becomes slightly more like angst because of his disinterest in taking on the responsibilities as a survivor of his civilization. As the protector, Timothy Olyphant has a more stoic and professional polish but slips in a small amount of humanity through his focus on protecting his ward. It is a little harder to connect with Olyphant but the movie seems less structured to push that angle. Teresa Palmer has a more significant role later in the film as Number 6 and has a fierceness with a warrior mentality. Sarah Hart, play by Dianna Agron, is her own sort of outcast, but only because of the manipulative personality of her ex-boyfriend, played by Jake Abel. Callan McAuliffe also has an important role as the outcast friend, Sam, whose role in John’s life is more than he could have guessed.
D.J. Caruso’s take on the teenage novel series plays as more of a prequel than a true stand-alone film. There are a lot of comparisons to the Twilight series, with an emphasis on catching teenage males. While there are the action sequences (mostly toward the end of the movie) that capture the wider interest of teenage males, there is a balance of multiple themes throughout the film. The origin story feels a little like the first Spiderman movie except in the lead’s knowledge of his background. What John does not know is that he possesses extraordinary powers, including greater agility, enhanced strength, telekinesis, resistance to extreme temperatures and the ability to make light shine from his palms. His character understands the threats but has to learns how to identify an control his powers. When he meets Sam, it sets off a chain reaction to the eventual search for his lost Lorienians. As for Sarah, her presence causes John to desire the exploration of love but reconcile that against the higher purpose Henri keeps referring to. This combines together the origin story with some intense action scenes and love story.
There was a lower reception for this film compared to some of the other teenage-based movies of the past five years. Much of the complaints center around the limited ability to connect with the characters and the issues with the CGI. As mentioned with Olyphant, each of the main characters are the little flat in their ability to project toward the audience. Pettyfer does the best job with exhibiting the most emotion, but that is also due to the amount of screen time he has compared to the rest of the characters. The villains are also a bit cliche with wasting time by talking to their prey too much and possessing a set of ridiculous constraints on their ability to succeed (killing the Lorienians in order and possessing no special powers. John’s dog and the Mogadorian creatures (which look like a mix of reptiles, dogs and flying squirrels) move fluidly but fail to do more than serve as monstrous distractions from the rest of the film.
I actually enjoyed the movie for what it was…an origin story. I would be interested in the potential of new members of the series and an increased focus on Teresa Palmer’s character, Number 6.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5