I Am Number Four: Book or Movie?

I Am Number Four is the first novel in this sci-fi fantasy series written by two authors under the collective pseudonym, Pittacus Lore. The very first words of the blurb lured me in and captured my interest.

‘They killed number one in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya.’

The first thing that came to mind was why are they numbered? As I continued to read the summary, the pieces didn’t quite fit in together yet, but I became invested.

‘He was once one of nine. Three of them have been killed.’

‘John is Number Four. He knows that he is next.’

My favourite genre is romance and I never stray away, but there was something about this book that reeled me in. From the very first page until the last words of the novel, I couldn’t find it in myself to put this book down. Which is why when I discovered that there was a movie made about the first book, I jumped at the chance to watch it.

The novel opens with us witnessing a Garde member being awoken. The movie opens in the same manner. Amidst the jungle in Kenya, we assume it is Number Three being chased by the Mogs. After the violent scene which unravels both in the novel and movie, John’s voice leads us into the events.

John Smith isn’t human, though he looks like one. He is an alien from his destroyed planet, Lorien. He was sent to Earth with eight others and these nine children are known as Garde, specific Loric who develop legacies which are powers. They were shoved into a ship with their Cepans – guardians who have taken an oath to care for them – while their planet burned. John has spent a decade on the run from the rival alien species that destroyed his planet, the Mogadorians. The Garde are numbered from One to Nine with a charm cast upon them as a protection spell; as long as they are kept separated, the Mogs cannot cause them harm or kill them unless they do it in numerical order. Now that One, Two and Three are dead, they are hunting for Four.

We get this brief explanation in both the book and the movie.

John smith is played by the gorgeous Alex Pettyfer, and we get our first portrayal of him in the next scene where he is jet skiing at the beach. This scene, as well as the next few, are not from the book. The scene where he is in the ocean with a girl isn’t described in the novel. However, I understand where the idea derived from since in the novel, John tells us how his ankle became scarred when Number Three died. The charm that protects the Garde also lets them know when one of them has died by scarring their ankle. He tells us he was on a boat with a pretty girl when an excruciating pain overwhelmed his body and his ankle lit up. In a similar manner in the movie, his leg lights up in the ocean and he is made a spectacle of with the girl and surrounding people at the beach.

A detail that I noticed was different to the novel was the scars upon his leg. The scars in the novel are described to be on the ankle of the Garde members which entails that the scars must be small. However, in the movie the scars are huge and trail up John’s leg. It was little details like this that I noticed and wasn’t sure how I felt towards given that minor details didn’t affect the plotline and yet the book lover in me wanted everything to be according to the book.

The movie depicts a car driving down a road as John and Henri, John’s Cepan, pack up and leave for Paradise, Ohio. This is the same as the novel where John’s narrative voice leads us into the location where everything for him changes. Paradise is where John’s life finally comes to a halt, where he stops running and faces his destiny.

Moreover, I did not like the portrayal of Henri in the movie. The descriptions of him in the novel encapsulate him as a warm and protective fatherly figure in John’s life. Yet in the film, he is perceived as very rude and harsh. When John tells him about how he felt the pain of Number Three’s death, not only was there a lack of emotion within Alex Pettyfer, but also Henri as we see him dismiss it. Though, one thing that stuck from the novel was that Henri is seen as very practical and pragmatic.

The book and movie continue at a similar pace, from arriving to Paradise, to trying to blend in by attending high school and meeting Sam Goode. Sam is John’s best friend throughout the series who believes in all things alien and intergalactic, rendering him the perfect side-kick. Although, he is more than that to me. Sam represents the humans who help the Garde in their war against the Mogadorians.

Along with everything we learn in the first novel, we also witness a blossoming romance between John and Sarah. As he falls in love with this kind and completely ordinary girl, John finds himself getting attached and reckless, and so when it comes for them to leave and move on, he claims to Henri he is not ready to leave and he is tired of his life being like this – living in constant fear. As a hopeless romantic, I must admit that I expected more from the authors’ build up of romance. The amount of amazing detail given in the action part of the novel isn’t applied to the romance department. We were rather told of their relationship rather than felt it. From my perspective, it seemed that John as a normal sixteen year old, simply fell for the attractive ex-cheerleader. It was definitely nothing like Nicholas Sparks’ whirlwind romances.

However, watching the film made Sarah and John’s love a little more real for me. Perhaps it was the fact that I could visualise it, but I honestly need to give credit to the movie for allowing me to better understand the romance between the two. I am not claiming that all the romance in the series is horrible because I actually adore the other forms of romance between different characters that we witness in the series. It was only Sarah and John’s relationship I did not understand as to me it was doomed from the beginning as it was unrealistic. Now I know when it comes to love, being realistic doesn’t come to mind. But John is an alien on a mission to restore his planet with the intention to one day go back to Lorien, and Sarah is an ordinary girl whose life is on Earth.

Action weaves into the series, beginning in I Am Number Four and only getting better in detail with each book. I love the way the authors write and describe each fight and battle; in each battle that I read, I couldn’t put the book down until the fight had ended. The action is what represents the series – all the battles symbolise the Garde’s fight towards freedom and safety.

The action in the movie did not disappoint. The fighting scenes were so real and I felt like the descriptions in the novel were being acted out in the movie. The Mogadorians look exactly like they are described as, with ashy pale skin and tattoos painted over their bald heads. The destruction of the school from the battle with the Mogs is like I imagined when I read the novel, from the ruined football field to the broken buildings of the school up in smokes.

Along with the action comes Six, another Garde and prominent character in the Lorien series. The way Six enters the movie is amazing, with Mogs dying at her feet as she storms into the school in search of Number Four. However, I did not like the way she is sexualised so much and illustrated through the male gaze. Six is my favourite female character in the series – she is beautiful, resilient, confident and powerful. Six is described as a warrior in the novel. And though she does seem like a fighter in the film, I did not like the way the producers highlighted her as a biker chick with a tight leather jacket and motorbike.

All in all, I absolutely love this book series. It has everything for a fellow book lover to curl up in bed and read all night. The movie has its perks in terms of allowing me to properly visualise the characters and events outside of my imagination. Though, the book lover in me will always choose the book over the movie.

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