Synopsis: In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite. Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult war games, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham, himself, to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.
Release Date: November 1, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Drama
Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel “Ender’s Game” is a seminal work of young adult science fiction, an introspective tale well ahead of its time. Ask any male between 15-40 what their favorite sci-fi book is and a lot of them might point to Card’s work for the way it combines escapism with some extremely bold ideas, many of which are still poignant today. And while there is a solid base with which to work, “Ender’s Game” is still a tough book to crack from a visual perspective, requiring both a very large budget and a skilled cast of young actors. Needless to say, a cinematic adaptation like Ender’s Game was going to be a tall order regardless of who’s involved.
Nevertheless, “Ender’s Game” has finally made the leap to the big screen and, for the most part, succeeds in faithfully adapting Card’s work while still taking the liberties necessary for a broader appeal. Ender’s Game, the film, hits all the major beats in Andrew “Ender” Wiggins’ journey from gifted battle school hopeful all the way to Command School, making a point to focus on the character’s unique approach to battles. Additionally, the film gives proper screen time to the various side characters important to the story, like Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), and Ender’s close friends Petra (Hailee Steinfeld) and Alai (Suraj Partha). Each does well in their respective roles, some more than others – with Harrison Ford and Viola Davis, who plays Major Anderson, leading the pack. Their scenes in particular are some of the most engaging, as the two debate the ethics of using children as battle commanders.
But obviously the star of the film is Asa Butterfield’s Ender, whom he plays with the same maturity shown previously in Hugo and The Road. Ender is an oftentimes cold, calculating young man, but one that still shows bursts of personality, and Butterfield communicates that dynamism effectively. To be fair, his performance isn’t perfect, there is lifeless delivery present in many of the younger actors’ scenes, but overall the film’s dramatic scenes work well because of his talent.
With that in mind, Gavin Hood deserves a lot of recognition for his ability to bring Ender’s Game to life. As both screenwriter and director, Hood visualizes some of Card’s bolder ideas in imaginative ways. The Battle School’s battle room, for example, is a true delight to see rendered on screen, even if it is overly CGI heavy. The same goes for the space battles, which are filled with plenty of visual spectacle and razor sharp animation work. Where it counts, Hood hits the mark with Ender’s Game, delivering a faithful adaptation that doesn’t sugarcoat any element or play down to its audience.
Although Ender’s Game is a tough sell to casual audiences, the film succeeds in delivering a thought-provoking sci-fi story set in a universe worth discovering. Ender, the character, comes to life through Asa Butterfield, who carries the film with self-assuredness. At times the movie feels rushed, trying to cover some dense subject matter in a short amount of time, but that doesn’t hurt the film too much overall. As well, the film’s uneven performances, especially from the younger actors, might take audiences out of the film, but only for brief moments at a time. And so, in that regard, the rushed pacing works to the film’s benefit.
Fans of Ender’s Game the book, and sci-fi fans in general, will greatly enjoy the experience Gavin Hood & Co. have crafted, as it hits all the major notes requisite of the genre. Spectacle-filled action, a high concept universe, and intriguing characters all serve to solidify the film’s already sturdy base. Anyone with a sense of imagination and wonder, be they kids or adults, will find a lot to enjoy about Ender’s Game.
Where Ender’s Game falls a little flat is in its action sequences. While fans of the book are well aware that Ender’s Game is more of a cerebral tale about Ender’s unique strategies, the film’s marketing heavily emphasizes the action, which is rather sparse, or is rushed through quickly. With only two real set pieces to speak of, Ender’s Game might not hit the mark for action-hungry science fiction fans, even if what Gavin Hood and his team have put together is visually impressive. As a sci-fi movie with some pointed moments of action, Ender’s Game delivers, but those who go in expecting, as the trailers suggest, an action-packed blockbuster might come away disappointed.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Gavin Hood
- Screenwriter(s): Gavin Hood
- Cast: Asa Butterfield (Ender Wiggin)Harrison Ford (Colonel Graff)Hailee Steinfeld (Petra Arkanian) Abigail Breslin (Valentine Wiggin)Ben Kingsley (Mazer Rackham)Viola Davis (Major Gwen Anderson)Suraj Partha (Alai)Aramis Knight (Bean)
- Editor(s): Lee Smith
- Cinematographer: Donald McAlpine
- Production Designer(s): Ben Procter
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Steve Jablonsky
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA