I Am Number Four (2011)

Rated PG-13, V -5; L –1; S/N –3.

Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from those who are violent,
who plan evil things in their minds
and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s,
and under their lips is the venom of vipers.
Psalm 140:1-3

Sarah and John fleeing the aliens.

2011 Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures

“The word home summons up a place—more specifically a house within that place—which you have rich and complex feelings about, a place where you feel, or did feel once, uniquely at home, which is to say a place where you feel you belong and which in some sense belongs to you, a place where you feel that all is somehow ultimately well even if things aren’t going all that well at any given moment.” Frederick Buechner, The Longing for Home, p. 7.

Sometimes it is good not to expect a lot of a film, as was the case with this one. Expecting another typi cal thriller with chases, the smashing and blowing up of cars and such, I was impressed by the human element in this film, even though the hero is not a human, but a survivor of an extraterrestrial race who is marked for extermination.

The film opens with a night scene in a tropical land where a younger and an older person are awakened by intruders, pursued, and killed. Only later do we understand that these must be Numbers Two and Three on the alien’s hit list, with our teenaged hero John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) the Number Four of the film’s title.

John himself is almost killed early in the story when the alien’s discover that he is living with his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) on a beach in Florida. Burning anything that they cannot take with them (including the house), they flee to a small town in Ohio, where the boy assumes his present name and identity. Henri is not comfortable with his charge’s desire to enroll in high school, warning him to be careful and keep a low profile. But this proves difficult, this being the age of Face Book and Twitter, and especially when the teenager is drawn to Sarah (Dianna Aragron), whose passion is photography (and of course, posting her photos on the Internet). John also befriends the picked upon Sam (Callan McAuliffe), whose UFO-obsessed father has been missing for a number of years. There follows lots of adventures, with bullying students, John’s discovering strange powers emerging in his body, a growing attraction between him and Sarah, and, of course, the alien assassins who show up. There is even the advent of Number Six, roaring into town on a spiffy chopper and who, as John is discovering, has some special powers that are very much needed if they are to survive the final assault of their hunters.

This is one of the better films aimed at teens, and would be a good one for a youth group to watch and discuss. John has been constantly moving from place to place trying to stay alive, but because of the relationships that he develops this little town is different, it is one which he now considers home, a place which he must leave, but to which he wants to return. Based on the series of novels by Pittacus Lore, we hope that this film is successful so that more adaptations will follow.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. How does this film compare to other hunt and chase films (such as the granddaddy of them all, The Fugitive)?

2. How has John’s constantly being on the move affected his relationships with others, especially girls? What is different this time?

3. How do you think the theme of bullying is dealt with, including the resolution of John’s relationship with chief bully Mark?

4. What do you think of John’s new yearning for a place called “home” ? Read and discuss the quotation from Frederick Buechner’s book: does this express your own feelings on the subject? What is it that makes a home for you?