*** Warning: This is slightly spoilery of both the movie & the book. ***
I read I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore in November last year and I was instantly a huge fan. I thought the book was well thought out, the details and history very rich and full, and the romantic element was sweet and rare for YA novels. Especially YA novels of sci-fi or horror genres. It was a book that moved at a somewhat slow pace for the majority of the storyline; it's a marathon book, not a sprinter. A lot of exposition and background was given in bits and pieces throughout short spurts of action, leading up to a finale that was well worth the slow burn wait. The intensity of the last scenes of the book were fantastic and had me on the edge of my seat wondering just exactly how it could all possibly end.
There were so many scenes in the book that I was really looking forward to seeing up on the screen. I anticipated the fact that books made into movies are usually changed some to make them more cinematic but in my experience they weren't so different that the major plot points and scenes were usually committed to screen with satisfactory brilliance. I looked to the Harry Potter series of movies and the Twilight movies as well as my guide to what I could possibly expect or not hope to see on screen (yeah, I watched the first Twilight movie just to satisfy myself that it was enough like the book for me to speak intelligently about it). Every other book made into a movie that I've seen has pretty much been the same. Jane Eyre, Sense & Sensibility, Jurassic Park, The Ghost Writer, The Stand, etc. ad nauseum.
So when I sat in the theater to see I Am Number Four I was absolutely dumbfounded. I was utterly caught off guard to find that they had kept the basic general idea of the book, 9 alien children escaped a planet being overtaken by evil aliens who flee to Earth to hide and gain special powers to save their planet in the future. But they had almost completely, without exception, re-plotted the entire story. There were a couple of scenes that were reminiscent of scenes in the book but it was like the writers had decided the movie was to the book as ducks are to airplanes. All the characters were vastly different and I was thoroughly unimpressed with Number Six's bad attitude toward humans.
The biggest annoyance to me with the movie was that the Mogadorians were farcical. In the book we hardly saw them. All we knew of them was that they were relentless, reckless, blood thirsty and highly destructive. They had special powers and swords with fantastical properties. We don't see them up close until the last scene where they are shown to be able to suck the life and joy out of the world around them. They are menacing, threatening and appear almost to be invincible in the face of Number Four.
The movie Mogadorians are tattooed, platform wearing, leather sheathed, weirdos led by the guy who played Joshua, the dog boy, in Dark Angel who seems almost to be reprising his role as Joshua with an evil bent. They are introduced early on and have little menace except to unsuspecting children in passing cars. They were reduced to the comic bookish villains of CW television series who all seem to have some sort of smart alec thing to say instead of just getting to business. They were obviously never going to win against Number Four & Number Six because they only wielded red laser guns with a side of witty banter.
When I finally saw the credits and noted that the same people who made Smallville made this movie, everything made sense. The unnecessary angst they added to the relationship between Number Four and Sarah, the reworking of certain scenes that very much had faint traces of a red cape, and the silly Mogadorians. Millar and Gough effectively modernized and rewrote Superman 2 for a young adult CW series watching audience.
All in all, had I not read the book, I would have loved the movie. For what it was, it was action-packed and entertaining. But it was a very shallow, gaudy expression of a very good book. I can't believe they totally re-plotted and re-characterized it. I can only hope that CW television show developers/producers, including Millar and Gough, stay far far away from the Hunger Games movie. I can just imagine how very Gossip Girl or 90210 that would end up...