I Am Number Four Technical Review (UK - BD RB)
Chris casts a critical eye over the Blu-ray release of the recent science-fiction film
I Am Number Four is the story of an young man, John Smith (Alex Pettyfer), who possesses extraordinary powers. Because of these powers John is pursued by a group of unrelenting, ruthless enemies bent on his destruction, with his only protection coming in the form of his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant). John's life is a constant procession of new homes and new identities and his most recent relocation to a small town in Ohio brings him into contact with the beautiful Sarah (Dianna Agron), for whom he instantly falls. However, as powerful new abilities surface John must face life-changing challenges and embrace his destiny as 'Number Four'.
I actually caught this flick at the cinema but it was completely ruined by a couple of ridiculously annoying teenage girls who spent the whole film talking, kicking the back of my seat and basically trying to wind me up as best they could. Thankful this screening was somewhat more controlled, so I was able to concentrate on the movie a little better. Unfortunately that really only allowed me to see more of the film's flaws. The biggest problem here—and it's actually one that has affected many films of late—is the feeling that the filmmakers thought they had an automatic right to a sequel. I'm all for films that make you think, but this one simply doesn't provide anywhere near enough exposition to make for a satisfying viewing experience. Why would I care about a potential follow-up if I'm not invested in the characters? I also had a problem with the central love story, which just felt forced. The Mogadorians are also some of the worst bad guys since the Psychlos and even the usually reliable Kevin Durand can't do much with his role. With that said I'm almost certainly not the target audience for this sort of thing and on the positive side there are some cool looking action sequences. The female bad-arse (Number Six) is also pretty fine. Surprisingly the best thing about the film is probably Mr. Olyphantastic himself and I never thought I'd be writing that.
Another recent movie, another sterling effort by Disney. The 1.85:1 widescreen (1080/24p AVC) transfer looks absolutely wonderful, with bold, vibrant colours, decent blacks and superb detail. Some of the brighter locations—such as the beach scenes near the beginning of the film—are absolutely gorgeous, with beautifully saturated primaries. As we move through the picture the current trend of using orange and teal rears its head, but it suits the stylised nature of the picture well. While blacks are generally very solid good I felt that shadow delineation sometimes let the side down, with some scenes looking positively murky. Still, this could easily be as a result of the original cinematography as any deficiencies with the transfer. Other than that there really isn't a lot to complain about. Textures look grand, grain is refined, and there are no film or digital artefacts to speak of. As much as I love watching films at the cinema I am sometimes amazed by how much better they can look on Blu-ray, and this is one such occasion.
A powerful and engaging DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is the order of the day here. The opening scenes showcase just about everything that's right with the track, with music and effects that swirl around the room as we zoom into the jungle setting. There are an abundance of tiny little details, such as chirping insects and howling monkeys, while the initial Mogadorian attack features some excellent discrete channel action and ferocious bass. To be honest the whole track is full of moments like this, from the subtle sounds of the beach and rainfall, to the all-out thrills and spills of the climactic battle sequence with its aggressive use of all available channels. Dialogue is well-balanced in the mix and occasionally makes its way into the surround channels to great effect, while the music is similarly distributed for added impact. It might have been the lack of screeching teenage girls, but like the video before it the home audio presentation of I Am Number Four blows the theatrical presentation away. It's a top drawer track that should please even the most demanding of listeners.
The Blu-ray includes a smattering of bonus content. First up we have a series of six deleted scenes, each with introduction by director D.J. Caruso, totalling around nineteen minutes. There's not a lot here that would be missing from the completed picture, although Kaen Allen does show up in a brief scene playing Sam's mum. 'Becoming Number Six' is a twelve minute featurette that focusses on Teresa Palmer's training. Anything that focusses on Teresa Palmer is okay by me. There are also around three minutes of bloopers, which are pretty standard stuff.
While I was left unimpressed I Am Number Four is an inoffensive movie that will probably appeal to the 'tween' crowd. It has a fair amount of action without being too bloody, there are hot girls and guys to gawk at, and you can drift in and out of the narrative and still follow the plot comfortably. I don't know if they'll ever make a sequel (it's set up) but if they do I really hope they bring back the character of Number Six, mainly because Teresa Palmer looks good in tight clothing. As for the Blu-ray, well as is usual for Disney it's an audio-visual delight, but sadly the extras are somewhat lacking. Palmer aside none of the principal cast are really featured and I felt that at the very least a director's commentary could have helped to beef things up. Even so fans of the film who demand the best viewing experience won't be disappointed, although thanks to the copious amount of Apple product placement they might come away with the urge to buy an iPhone or a Mac.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 20th June 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Descriptive 2.0 Video Service English, DTS 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Turkish
Subtitles: Arabic, Bulgarian, English, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Featurette, Bloopers
Easter Egg: No
Director: D.J. Caruso
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer, Callan McAuliffe, Kevin Durand
Length: 110 minutes
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