Massawyrm thinks I AM NUMBER FOUR is a big number two!
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
A product of James (A MILLION LITTLE PIECES) Frey’s controversial and exploitive fiction factory Full Fathom Five, I AM NUMBER FOUR takes everything you hate about the Hollywood movie-by-committee system and applies it directly to its source material as well. Everything about it is hollow, artificial and uninspired. And in order to wrap your mind around what exactly went wrong here, you have to know how it was created. After his famous public meltdown in the face of his releasing a fictional memoir - that was both pimped and summarily executed by Oprah Winfrey – Frey set out to use the connections and inroads he’d gained over the years to create a company dedicated towards creating Twilight-flavored Young Adult novels, designed specifically for sale to Hollywood studios. The idea was not to create indelible classics or feature the work of young talented writers – it was to create prepackaged properties designed to be released as a book first and a movie second, with the movie following on its heels by only a few months.
The contracts for the young writers cranking these novels out are embarrassingly draconian, paying a scant $250 advance to write a full length novel with all rights to the property owned by Frey and Full Fathom Five. Needless to say, the revelation of these details caused a stir of its own, with folks arguing on both sides about the ethics of unknown writers getting what could be their big break via a contractual buttfucking.
Why is any of this relevant? Because I AM NUMBER FOUR was not the product of someone’s fevered imagination and desire to tell a great science fiction story. It was written because James Frey felt that the current supernatural craze was coming to an end and that the next logical fad would be aliens. So he wanted someone to write him an alien story. Thus he hired a kid fresh out of college, eager to use his MFA in creative writing, and tasked him to create a science fiction story based upon a few ideas he cooked up.
Unfortunately for us, not a single one of those ideas was in any way original. I AM NUMBER FOUR borrows endlessly from the conventions of science fiction without giving anything at all back. It is a classic Superman, last-of-their-kind, gifted-with-powers-humans-could-never-dream-of fairy tale, laid over the monomyth and left to rot with nothing to do or say. Making matters worse, Frey is aiming at the TWILIGHT audience and is thus borrowing heavily from the Stephanie Meyer playbook without seeming to understand what makes her books popular, which here is akin to asking a college student to watch videos of the monkeys accidently writing Shakespeare and demanding that he duplicate their winning formula. The story, understandably, fails to hit anywhere near the mark, entirely flubbing the few elements that made TWILIGHT the sugar-coated guilty pleasure success that it is.
Everything here not only feels as if it has been done before, it feels as if it has been done to death before. There isn’t even a shred of a new idea here. It is rehashed, regurgitated, boilerplate bullshit. There is dialog and exposition in here so corny, even the free movie audience I saw it with laughed out loud at it. And the internal logic is so borked that it only makes sense to someone who is simultaneously huffing paint while watching. So what’s keeping it from being fall out of your chair funny?
D.J. Caruso. Somewhere along the line Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg thought this novel-by-committee project was worth sinking some time and money into – so they lined up Spielberg’s favored go to guy and gave him a respectable budget to try to make something out of it. Caruso, a competent director with an admittedly questionable taste in material, was smart enough to bring on underrated veteran Timothy Olyphant to deliver all of the most embarrassing exposition. Olyphant’s ability to keep a straight face while uttering lines like “On our planet, when we fall in love, it is only with one person, ever,” is positively herculean.
The one thing going its way is that despite drowning in its own clichés, Caruso manages to eek out a pretty bad ass little climax. Sure, there isn’t an ounce of emotional attachment to a single fucking thing going on, but once giant monsters start tearing each other apart and super powered alien teenagers start doing battle with a seemingly endless supply of raygun wielding bad guys, the movie lets you forget about its general lousiness for a few minutes and finally gets around to entertaining you. It doesn’t last long, but what’s there is fairly solid.
Of course, then the movie becomes crippled by its own design. I AM NUMBER FOUR is slated as the first in a proposed 6 part series, which means, as you probably have already guessed, that the movie suffers from an unsatisfying conclusion requiring you to follow the further adventures in subsequent novels and (possibly) films. Of course, it would be much harder on the audience if they actually gave a shit about who the remaining aliens were and what their ultimate purpose was, but mercifully they won’t. People who have witnessed similar endings in films like JUMPER and PUSH will find themselves in familiar waters here. It’s the same kind of hopeful moviemaking that only works in hindsight, after a series has a number of hit films under its belt. And it certainly doesn’t work here.
Anyone younger than a teenager will probably have some fun with this, though anyone else is likely to feel dumber having watched it. Fiction should never be farmed out in order to anticipate trends, and films should never be made out of said fiction before it has even had a chance to become market proven. This is an experiment doomed to produce nothing but dogshit. And the proof is I AM NUMBER FOUR.
Until next time friends,
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Feb. 18, 2011, 7:45 a.m. CST
Remember when we had EXPLORERS?
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:46 a.m. CST
I concede on hindsight that movie may actually objectively suck. I remember the aliens at the end being unnecessarily goofy (even through the eyes of an 8 yr old). But what a great concept.
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:48 a.m. CST
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:49 a.m. CST
by Larry Sellers
The director of Disturbia and Eagle Eye? Meh. The previews reminded me too much of Jumper or Push. Some hip folks in hoodies with stupid CGI powers.
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:50 a.m. CST
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:52 a.m. CST
if they had a nude scene with Diana Agron, especially with her in that little cheerleader outfit she wears in Glee, this movie would have at least one scene worth watching. lol
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:53 a.m. CST
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:55 a.m. CST
by Judge Briggs
I wanna see Battle: Los Angeles...
Feb. 18, 2011, 7:55 a.m. CST
How did you guys decide who was going to get to use the coveted 'number two' joke in their review title? Rock-Paper-Scissors? Coin toss? Or whoever finishes first gets it?
Feb. 18, 2011, 8:13 a.m. CST
I've been missing your reviews. They're always a good read.
Feb. 18, 2011, 8:18 a.m. CST
Hoping Superman be epic and emotional...
Feb. 18, 2011, 8:24 a.m. CST
by Massawyrm 1
Dick measuring contest. Guy with the smallest one-eyed willy got to use it.
Feb. 18, 2011, 8:38 a.m. CST
That's the way of the world, people. If you want to get ahead in life, bend over and take it. The key is finding the people who will give you the common courtesy of a reacharound.
Feb. 18, 2011, 8:50 a.m. CST
and it's gonna SHIT on this.
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:03 a.m. CST
If so, that's giving her a little too much credit, don't you think?
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:05 a.m. CST
Feel free to run with it Frey.
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:10 a.m. CST
by Nasty In The Pasty
Currently at ZERO PERCENT at Rotten Tomatoes. Even the title makes no sense. Where's the apostrophe at the end of "Momma's"?
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:13 a.m. CST
by Shut the Fuck up Donny
I watched it a month ago after a 15-year break and still enjoyed the film. The first 2/3rds of the move is a lot of fun (and dare I say, exciting?), but just falls flat when the kids meet the goofy aliens (which I have read in some places was half-assed/rushed due to various restraints).
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:18 a.m. CST
So buy a ticket and take the ride.
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:28 a.m. CST
But, not for the reason nasty mentioned.
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:39 a.m. CST
Despite the fact that its kinda a rip of the Race to Witch Mountain remake (aliens chased by alien bounty hunter), it had potential. Until they ruined it with tweeny romance. The ads for this looked terrible.
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:40 a.m. CST
And, speaking of which, ARE we getting a review of "Unknown"?
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:44 a.m. CST
Fuck that shit.
Feb. 18, 2011, 9:47 a.m. CST
Are there any African American MFA grad students out there who would like to ghost write 'Teen Blacula' for me?
I'll advance you $250 and a pack of Newport Lights.
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:06 a.m. CST
by The Garbage Man
I'm assuming it refers to the fact that when he puts on the drag and fat suit, he becomes the Big Momma character. So I guess Brandon Jackson is also assuming the identity of an obese mother? Although shouldn't Lawrence be Big Gramma since he portrays an elderly woman? These films really are a minefield of philosophical queries. Also, how uninteresting does your stupid teen alien drama have to be for people to prefer debating the intricacies of Big Momma's House?
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:18 a.m. CST
Steven Fucking Spielberg can't?
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:19 a.m. CST
Yes the method of creating the material sounds terrible, but I am the sucker sitting at a desk. I would gladly have my name associated with a mediocre product if I was living the high life. In fact, I am an educator, I am already turning out mediocre products without the huge payout.
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:26 a.m. CST
James Frey sounds like even more of a jackass now.
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:28 a.m. CST
He's so hot right now.
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:28 a.m. CST
And the esteem drops.
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:54 a.m. CST
You would think they would have had enough common sense to change the title to something else like "I Am Four." Then again, this is Hollywood we're talking about.
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:55 a.m. CST
I also have a book idea for scifi for teens,should I bust out the KY for my interview?
Feb. 18, 2011, 11:50 a.m. CST
by Han Cholo
FUCK MICHAEL BAY!! <p> Yes, a shout out to MCMV..... or whatever his name was. We miss you, dude.
Feb. 18, 2011, 12:28 p.m. CST
by Dr. Egon Spengler
...but thank you for taking one for the team.
Feb. 18, 2011, 1:17 p.m. CST
I feel so sorry for you sometimes...the crap you have to watch...ugh
Feb. 18, 2011, 1:43 p.m. CST
A move produced by Michael Bay turns out to be shit. What suprise!!!! Who would had ever though that? Who could had predicted that? Life is full of suprises!!
Feb. 18, 2011, 1:49 p.m. CST
EXPLORERS! Ahhh, good memories!
Feb. 18, 2011, 1:54 p.m. CST
Feb. 18, 2011, 2:32 p.m. CST
Thanks for clearing that up, garbage man.
Feb. 18, 2011, 2:53 p.m. CST
I didn't know that the million little pieces guy had a *little* to do with this. And your info about the "embarassingly draconian" scant $250 paid to the writers there were very eye opening. I was expecting to see the words thousand after $250, but you just seeing the commercials I know that 2 and a half benjamins were all the motivation given to someone to churn out crap like that. Seriously, I agree with most of your reviews, and I always dig the titles and the cool little avatars or whatever you have at the end. And to my pleasant surprise, you had my personal favorite, Darth Massawyrm in this one. But yeah, I didn't need to even read this artiqle to figure out number four was a number two.
Feb. 18, 2011, 3:48 p.m. CST
for his stupid book but how many people have been killed because they were dragged into a war based on lies. How many people lost their money, their houses and jobs based on lies and deceit. No one drags out these assholes to tar and feather them. It's good to see where people's priorities are.
Feb. 18, 2011, 11:55 p.m. CST
just plain awful. and these types of reviews r why i like this site. i was actually considering seeing it cuz theres nothing out right now, and i have a week off of school, and tim olyphants in it, but now i know to avoid it
Feb. 19, 2011, 1:43 a.m. CST
Come on Massa, it wasn't that bad. It wasn't great to be sure either. My 13 and 10 year old daughters loved it. It had that "Twilight" feel to it. It had some slow spots, but I was entertained. 3 out of 5 stars.
Feb. 19, 2011, 10:27 a.m. CST
How's the view from that high horse? You do realize that this is a genre entertainment website and not the Washington Post OP-ED, right?
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