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Literature / I Am Number Four

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John Smith is Number Four.

"In the beginning we were a group of nine. Three are gone, dead. There are six of us left.They are hunting us, and they won't stop until they've killed us all. I am Number Four. I know that I am next."

Part of the Lorien Legacies.

Number Four is an alien from the planet Lorien, which was destroyed by another evil race, the Mogadorians, whose sole purpose is planetary extinction. Number Four wasn't the sole survivor, as there were eight others, along with their guardians, who escaped the planet's destruction. These nine remnants are destined to use their inner powers to defeat these evil intergalactic terrors, but they must survive long enough to master them. The aliens seek out the survivors, one by one, in order of their number. Numbers one through three have been killed.

Number Four is next.

I Am Number Four is a Young Adult sci-fi novel written by Pittacus Lore, the Pen Name of James Frey (of A Million Little Pieces infamy) and Jobie Hughes. Published in 2010, it had the film rights picked up by DreamWorks SKG over a year before it was even released. The Film of the Book was released in February 2011, starring Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer and Timothy Olyphant.

While the film series has been shelved due to relatively-poor performance at the box office, the novel series continued, reaching a total of seven books.

The book series has gained Frey (further) infamy and controversy even before it hit shelves: Frey's publishing house, Full Fathom Five, commissioned I Am Number Four specifically to write "the next The Twilight Saga" or "Harry Potter" with the idea of being adapted into a film franchise from the onset and has been accused of being akin to a fiction sweatshop and producing works of derivative nature. New York Magazine published an article giving more insight into Frey's thought processes behind the series and Full Fathom Five.

Tropes in I Am Number Four:

  • Action Girl: Number Six.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change: In the book Four has Lumen that includes being fire-retardant, whereas in the film it is Six who has this ability instead. Also, in the book Six could only become invisible, but this becomes Flash Step as well in the film.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Mogadorians exterminate all life on a planet (including all members of the species from that planet that escape), then find another planet to wipe clean.
  • Ancient Astronauts: The Loriens and Mogadorians. Even quoted in the film.
  • Badass Bystander: Plenty of them, notably Daniela's stepfather for attacking a Mog with a baseball bat and the mysterious caller, a man from Columbus who captured a Mog under unclear circumstances, tortured it for information and phoned that information to conspiracy magazine They Walk Among Us.
  • Badass Longcoat: All of the Mogadorians wear them.
  • Badass Normal: Sam, who "plays a lot of Xbox".
  • Betty and Veronica: Played with. Certainly Sarah, whose defining character trait is that she takes pictures, feels mildly threatened when Number 6 appears in the film. She should because as she's busy cowering in fear due to her powerlessness, Number 6 is wrecking people left and right. But considering how John's race mates for life with one other person, Sarah really has nothing to worry about.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Subverted when Four tries on Sam's specs, which actually used to belong to Sam's missing father, and gets a major headache. Also counts as Glasses Curiosity.
    Four: Jesus, is your vision really this bad?... You know these things will screw up your vision if you keep wearing them, right?
  • Blood Knight: Number Six, but when Number Nine comes along she seems like an amateur compared to him.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: Sam bringing along guns.
  • The Chosen One: Four is, obviously, made out to be so.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: The Mogadorians.
  • Disappeared Dad: Sam's, and John's to an extent - but he claims Henri as his father.
  • The Dog Is an Alien: John/Number Four's dog Bernie Kosar shapeshifts into a more monstrous, distinctly more extraterrestrial creature (that still resembles a dog) known as a Chimera to pull a Big Damn Heroes, engaging another alien monster in combat and eventually killing it.
  • Dye or Die: Number Four has to dye his brown hair blonde when he moves to Paradise, Ohio.
  • Easily Forgiven: Mark, despite being an utter Jerkass throughout the entire story, paint bombing Sam and John's lockers, sending his men to attack John and kidnap Sarah, gets off with an insincere apology at the end.
  • Four Is Death
  • Giant Flyer: They're more like giant gliders, but the Mogadorians' secret monsters are still this.
  • Human Aliens: The Loric.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Mogs.
  • Humanoid Alien: See Human Aliens and Humanoid Abomination above.
  • I Just Wantto Be Normal
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Sam.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Number Three. And Henri. Four also narrowly avoids this.
  • Inconvenient Darkroom Illumination: Happens twice. First time is when John hides in the darkroom of his school when his hands start glowing, destroying all the photos that Sarah had in there. This has the added bonus of wiping his face off pictures, and Sarah thinks he did it deliberately because of his dislike of having his picture taken. The second time is in the big fight in the high school. The pair hideout/develop more pictures in the darkroom when a Mog blasts the door open with a light-beam weapon.
  • Invincible Hero: Four has so many superpowers that he's basically undefeatable, at least for the Jerkass jocks at his school. Literally with Six, thanks to magic.
  • Jerkass: Mark, the Football Jock and Sarah's ex, is completely without any redeeming qualities, is little more then a violent thug who attacks other people constantly, and ends up getting easily forgiven at the end.
  • Kink Meme: There's a new one here, for both the movie and the book, as far as they overlap.
  • Le Parkour: Number Four is fond of this trope.
    • And Number Three, implying that Lorians are all badass. The opening sequence of the film was maybe the most awesome part. It does help that Greg Townley, Damian Walters' protégé, played three.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall: Sadly averted; only redirects to the film's website.
  • Missing Mom: Number Four's parents are both dead, but he mentions to Sarah's family that his parents are just separated.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Bernie Kosar, the dog named after a former NFL quarterback.
  • Pet Monstrosity: The Mogadorians' pets. Also, Bernie Kosar. He manages to take down one giant flying monster, and only gets a hurt paw out of it. Number Six takes out the second one with some help from Four.
  • Power Glows
  • Proud Warrior Race: Implied with the Mogadorians. The Mog leader mentions “where I'm from, men work,” (not to mention his hunting trophies).
  • The Quarterback: Mark is originally a bit of a Jerk Jock, who has no issue with the regular students but does have a grudge against Sam — a nerd who does stand up to him and believes in aliens — and John — who is dating his ex-girlfriend. By the end, though, he is incorporated into their gang, helping to keep secrets and evade police etc.
  • The Quisling - The guys from the "They Walk Among Us" website.
  • Rescue Introduction: Number 6.
  • Shapeshifting: Apparently, the Chimera can change form.
  • Superpower Lottery: Number Four.
  • Team Pet: Bernie Kosar, prior to his upgrade into a Pet Monstrosity.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sam near the end, when he takes up a Mogadorian blaster rifle to protect himself and Sarah. He "plays a lot of Xbox."
    • Bernie when he transforms into the chimaera.
    • Not to mention Number Four himself when his powers emerge.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Mark, after taking over They Walk Among Us.
  • You Are Number 6: Played straight enough in the books where the Loric appear to have no proper names in their own language and narrator Four/John actually refers to himself as 'Four.'

Tropes specific to the novelnote :

  • Alternate Landmark History: The first example of this pops up about the Ancients.
  • Big Bad: Setrakus Ra (not named in the film).
  • Chekhov's Skill: Four being fire-retardant crops up twice: at Mark's party and the final fight.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The good guys use blue bullets/power/sword. The bad guys use green lasers.
  • Elemental Powers: The Loric horoscope at the end of some editions of Book 1 (essentially the Western horoscope with exotic names) alludes to this. Like, those born under fire signs are most likely to have Lumen as a legacy.
    • The cover of the book also carries an elemental motif relating to characters with large roles in the novel: Fire, shown by a Flaming orange-red sun for Four and his Lumen (which comes with heat/fire resistance.)
  • Everything Is Online: Actually played fairly realistically; one of the things that keep Number Four from staying in one place is that whenever something big happens to him that exposes the fact that he's an alien is because people record his powers and upload them to YouTube.
  • Kayfabe: The very first page of the book is a "disclaimer" stating the events depicted in the book are real. Also the author bio states that "Pittacus Lore" is the ruling elder of Lorien currently in hiding.
  • Missing Mom: Number Four's parents are both dead.
  • My Nayme Is: Henri. Justified because the Loric accent (which he hasn't really lost) is said to resemble French, so he just has a French name to go with it (this causes some consternation for Sam's mom, who hears his accent and unsuccessfully tries to converse with him in French, in which she is fluent).
  • Sequel Hook: The book reveals that the Chests contain various rocks, jewels, and other implements that allow the Garde to develop their powers. Four only takes the Lumen out and has no idea what the globes actually do. Not to mention it finishes with the fight.

Tropes specific to the film:

  • Adaptational Badass: Number Six trades in invisibility from the book for teleportation in the movie.
  • Adaptational Villainy: the conspiracy theorist publishers/bloggers who Run They Walk Among only collaborate with the Mogs out of fear of death in the book but do so out of hope for material gain in the movie. which makes their avoiding the What Happened to the Mouse? fate of their book counterparts and instead suffering You Have Failed Me somewhat karmic.
  • All There in the Script: In the script, Sarah's surname was spelt 'Harte', and Mark's misspelt 'Jayne' in directions, but correctly as 'James' in dialogue.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Number Six.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Instead of gore, the alien characters that die turn to dust and explode in a shower of ash. Averted by the Gory Discretion Shot of the janitor, where you see the automatic mop sweeping his blood off the floor.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Those Deflector Shields ain't just for lookin' cool.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The good guys use blue bullets/power/sword. The bad guys use red bullets.
  • Composite Character: Sarah's younger brother, of her two older brothers and her younger sister from the book.
  • Deflector Shields: Number Six.
  • Disney Death: The supposed tragic death of the dog turned out to be this.
    • This shouldn't have surprised anyone; when we last see the dog during the climax, it's wounded, but it doesn't turn to dust like all other aliens that die in the movie. Therefore, it's obvious even before it pops up again in the last scene that it survived.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Sam upon seeing Six. In fact, the distraction works to break him out of a panic attack.
  • Everything Fades: All aliens (conveniently) leave no corpses. This is probably a substitute for Henri's funeral pyre from the novel.
  • Everything Is Online: Actually played fairly realistically
    • Implied to be one of the things that keep Number Four from staying in one place is that whenever something big happens to him that exposes the fact that he's an alien is people record him: in the film, a clip got sent to a conspiracy site.
    • Henri also found a lot of information about Sam's dad.
    • Sarah has a photo blog, and dedicates effectively a tag to pictures of John. They immediately get taken down by Henri, and even she doesn't seem to notice the lack.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Kevin Durand had some fun playing the Mog leader.
  • Expy: Every Mogadorian (in the film) looks like a gill-nosed Lord Voldemort.
  • Faux Affably Evil / Laughably Evil: The leader of the Mogs delivers some of the funniest lines in the film.
  • Flash Step: Number Six, particularly in the movie where she can teleport.
  • For the Evulz: The Mog leader scares the crap out of a little boy in an adjacent car for no other reason than this.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The deaths of the "They Walk Among Us" guys and the janitor all happen off-screen as well as the death of Number Three's guardian, who's yanked through the door of their hut by one of the lizard glider creatures.
  • It's Personal: Number Four points to the red-eyed Mogadorian and tells Number Six: "He killed Henri, I want him."
  • Jerkass: The girl in the beginning that freaks out when Four's tattoos start glowing. Made especially egregious as she was about to sleep with him. Instead, she swims off, leaving him alone (and in apparent trauma) while shouting that Four is "a freak." That's a quality lady right there.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Realistically averted: a shotgun is more likely to knock the Made of Iron bad guys on their ass, and flinging large heavy items at them will probably slow them down, but it takes turning their own overpowered BFGs on them to actually take them out.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Actually more of Deflector Shields, until Number Six uses it along with her own body in the climax to protect Number Four and herself.
  • Made of Iron:
    • The only things that seem to be able to kill a Mog is a Mogadorian blade or one of their weapons.
    • Sarah's ex has some elements of this as well. He's launched into a second floor window hard enough to crack the glass with his face, then falls back to the ground, and yet he's completely uninjured at the conclusion of the movie.
  • Missing Mom: Number Four's parents are both dead, but he mentions to Sarah's family that his parents are just separated. Also, Sam has lived with his dad and stepdad but no mom is ever mentioned.
  • Mundane Utility: Number Four's glowing hands. Aside from using them to recharge Six's powers, he uses them mainly as flashlights.
  • My Nayme Is: The film avoids this issue entirely. Whilst Henri's name is spelt with an 'i', it is pronounced like the English "Henry," and he has no unusual accent whatsoever. This may have been done to avoid What the Hell Is That Accent?, or to cut down on the info-dumpage in the prologue.
  • Oblivious Janitor Cut
  • Oh, Crap!: Number Six gets two of these: one when an energy grenade gets thrown at her, and the second is when she realizes Four is about to give the leader Mog a Pineapple Surprise (in slow motion, no less). Sam also has one when he sees the lizard creatures jumping out of the truck, followed immediately by another one when Bernie Kosar shape-shifts.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sam (portrayed by British-Australian actor Callan McAuliffe) is a repeat offender of this trope, but most notably in the garage scene. British actor Alex Pettyfer slips up as well, but much less frequently.
    • In the DVD bonus feature about Number 6, Australian Teresa Palmer claims that one of the things she liked about the role was being able to use her own dialect.
    • At least with the latter, it can be assumed that he either has a somewhat odd combination accent due to extensive travel or that he's faking an accent to fit in better with the Americans.
      • The same for Palmer's Number Six.
  • Out of the Inferno: Number Six after blowing up Number Four's old house. Justified in that Number Six can shield herself from fire.
  • Pineapple Surprise: Number Four kills the Mogadorian leader by using his powers to set off all of the leader's bullets while they're still strapped to his chest.
  • Reduced to Dust: Done in the film version with all alien people and creatures, presumably to not leave lots of dead bodies lying everywhere, especially with an expanded audience including younger people.
  • Sequel Hook: The movie end with Number Four and Six searching for Numbers 5-7-8-9 and Sam's dad. We also never saw what's in that box.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: In the beginning of the film.
  • Unflinching Walk - Number Six after setting fire to Number Four's old house to such a degree she walks in the explosion.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Henri.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The Mogs keep their secret weapons sated with supermarket turkeys.
  • You Are Number 6: Played with. It's averted in that the numbers are not actually used for names, but as target designations. However, it's deliberately invoked in Number Six's case, who identifies herself as "Number Six" (except one snarky comment to Sam that her name is "Jane Doe") and refers to John only by his number.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The two conspiracy theorists, one of whom is forced to swallow what looked like a miniature version of a Sentinel Sphere from Phantasm.

Alternative Title(s): Lorien Legacies