If there’s one thing producer Michael Bay knows how to do, it’s packaging films about superpowered aliens for the masses. His newest endeavor, “I Am Number Four,” based on the novel by Pittacus Lore, follows the tradition of “Transformers” and presents sci-fi action in its most digestible and entertaining form.

I Am Number Four

At Quality 16 and Rave
Disney

“I Am Number Four” stars the U.K.’s newest import, Alex Pettyfer (“Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker”), in the title role. Number Four — known by his alias, John Smith — is one of nine aliens from the planet Lorien who seek refuge on Earth from the malevolent Mogadorians. After the first three are killed — the first scene is a particularly adrenaline-charged hunt that results in Number Three’s death — Four has to hide or fight. While hiding out in the fantastically obscure Paradise, Ohio, John falls in love with a human girl, Sarah (Dianna Agron, TV’s “Glee”).

Pettyfer is no breakout thespian, but he doesn’t pretend to be. He narrates the film in a deep, sexy monotone and just happens to be sinfully attractive enough to make audiences forget his mediocre acting for the rest of time. The scenes where he really excels are the action sequences, and in true Michael Bay style, “I Am Number Four” is full of them. Pettyfer is all about stunts and physicality, making him perfect for the role.

These scenes don’t really get started until about halfway through the two-hour story, but when they do it’s all punching, stabbing, supernatural abilities and explosions … just the kind of “X-Men”-esque shenanigans that redeem 40 minutes of trite teen romance. The first scene featuring Number Six (Teresa Palmer, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) involves slow-motion walking away from an explosion, accompanied by Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” It’s too typically, unabashedly badass to not enjoy.

It’s easy to stop caring about John’s feelings for Sarah once aliens start blowing each other up, but it dominates the first half enough to be impossible to ignore. Agron showcases her acting ability about as much as she does on “Glee” — which is to say, not at all. She’s still striking poses, making doe-eyes and speaking in breathy murmurs that ensnare the nearest hegemonic male.

Apart from Pettyfer and Agron, the cast is strong. Timothy Olyphant (TV’s “Justified”) consistently steals scenes as Number Four’s guardian, Henri, a sarcastic Southern man with no patience for traditional teenage emotion. He provides the necessary explanation for Number Four’s powers. If anything, more time should have been devoted to Henri and the planet Lorien’s culture than to John and Sarah’s alleged love.

Also worthy of note is newcomer Callan McAuliffe as John’s friend Sam, an alien-obsessed townie with a thirst for adventure. McAuliffe is helpful without seeming like a tag-along. He manages to deliver a few witty one-liners (“I play a lot of Xbox,” he says after destroying a Mogadorian beast with one gunshot) but also serve a purpose with his bravery and alien expertise.

The Mogadorians themselves are so uniquely gruesome that it’s impossible to look away. They tower over average humans and have blood-red gills on their faces, complemented by rows of razor-sharp teeth and tattoos covering their bald heads. The always-sinister Kevin Durand injects each scene with the same terror he invoked as Martin Keamy on “Lost.”

Though the ending is ripe for a sequel, it’s also satisfying enough to be left alone. The book’s sequel is due this summer and all the actors have other engagements, so there’s no current plan to turn the film into a franchise. Pity, though. Hollywood could always use more explosions.

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