Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book to Movie Review - I Am Number Four

Book Stack End TableI like to read books. A lot. In fact, when I first started losing my vision and getting the crazy headaches from my IIH, losing the ability to read print on paper was one of my biggest heartbreaks. However, in the Spring of 2010, I got an iPad and have been able to read again, at my leisure (in ginormous font) and, for that, I am forever in love with technology.

Now back to my point. Books rock! Stories that are creatively written and can convey drama, romance, action and emotion through configurations of letters strewn together in an organized manner separated by well placed punctuation are works of art. Sometimes stories are recognized for their entertainment value and gobbled up by Hollywood. Such was the case with the Young Adult novel called I Am Number Four. In fact, based on the timing of the release of the book and the film I would have to say that I think maybe Hollywood had their hands on this story even before it went to print, which makes the following thoughts even more pressing to me:

If one decides that a story is valuable enough to make a motion picture out of it, why doesn't that one stick to the plot as written in the original story?

I Am Number Four
This is a question that has plagued readers for generations, and tonight I have fallen victim to its curse once again. I read I Am Number Four earlier this month and found it very entertaining. When I realized it was going to be a movie I thought that was a really good move. The story had all of the angst and emotions of the "new kid in a new school" story mixed with "high school bully is the ex-boyfriend of the chick I dig" and, of course, "I can't tell anybody, but I am really an alien from another planet hiding in plain sight from an evil race of aliens that is hunting me down to try and kill me dead."

After I read the book, I read many reviews of the book that said the story and its characters were cliche, that this story has been told before. However, while a broad strokes look at the story may lead you to believe so, I think that many of the characters had a nice depth to them that was anything but cliche. The most intriguing character in the book for me was (well, besides Bernie Kosar, of course - I kind of have a thing for beagles) Mark, the "bully." His transforming moment, in a fire (oftentimes a signal of rebirth in literature) was much more believable than many bully transformations I have read in the past. In fact, the fire scene in the book was so important to many of the characters in the book -
  • Sam, the shy, outcast character kisses a girl which may actually be the catalyst for the fire. His passion ignites the rebirth.
  • Mark, the strong quarterback bully is left helpless unable to be strong for all those who have looked up to him for so long and, instead, must rely on a boy he has been diminishing in their society. He is forced to find strength in others and be grateful for it rather than threatened by it. 
  • John (Number Four), who has been hiding his true identity from everyone, even those he truly cares about must make a decision to keep his secret and let people die, or use his power to save others, therefore ending his life in Paradise, Ohio. He is finally able to tell Sarah the truth as they burst from the fire unscathed.
It was a pretty powerful scene, and, yes, I am probably reading it way too deeply, but that's what I do - I think, a lot, about everything... it's kind of like a hobby of mine. Anyway, my point is: THIS SCENE DID NOT MAKE IT INTO THE MOVIE. This is just one example of a scene that I can disect for its storytelling power and then end up telling you was not in the film. Here are some big elements that I sorely missed:
  • the first day of school/lost phone/impending fight
  • the Halloween parade 
  • Thanksgiving
  • the fire legacy
  • the significance of the Lorien trunk
  • Henri and John's training sessions
  • John and Bernie's runs
The worst part for me was that it was obvious that these scenes were not victims of an overly zealous editting staff. No, these elements, and others were simply written right out of the movie!

So, because my reader-moviegoer's wound has been reopened I am asking again:

If one decides that a story is valuable enough to make a motion picture out of it, why doesn't that one stick to the plot as written in the original story?

I am disappointed. I am, sadly, not surprised.  I just thought that with this book, because it was written for a younger audience, that they would do right by the kids. This stuff always bothers me ten times more when it is done to young readers (perhaps one day I will regale you with my fury about The Spiderwick Chronicles).

For this, I need a couple more rounds of non-fiction books where I learn something new before I am ready to get burned again. I really wish I could just love books and not love the movies so much. That would make my life SO much easier!


  1. Lesson learnt: never ever let a prick call Michael Bay to direct a movie based on your book. No wonder Megan Fox hate him, so does the lot transformers fans and the no 4 fans that includes you. He likes to make movies with a lot of MSGs aka trash (sexy ladies, plus a lot of crap lines).

    I watch the movie, and that spark my interest on the book. Probably i get one when my pay check comes...

  2. I hear you, however, you will see when you read the book - he already had everything he needed right in the story! I figured the movie was safe in anyone's hands because it felt like the book was written very much like a typical blockbuster film.

    Enjoy the book! I would love to hear (read) what you think about it compared to the film.

  3. hello, i saw the book, great read but IMHO it is more suitable for a TV drama serial like Glee, Desperate Housewife than a movie. You are right in all accounts. All the great scenes are taken out. Damn the director D. J. Caruso and producer michael bay. Both needs to be hang in public

  4. Such a great point!! A TV show would have been awesome!! Especially since this is an ongoing book series. That would be a lot of fun to watch, plus they could have used the really *BIG* scenes for sweeps weeks and season finales.

    You know, I never really think about the TV show option when I am reading a book... I need to. There are plenty of books that lend themselves well to television versus film (plus it will save me $$!!),

    What a loss. The CW could have had a perfect replacement for Smallville after it ends this year! I Am Number Four would have been a perfect fit for Smallville fans.

    Thanks for coming back to let me know what you thought!!