Director: Gavin Hood
Writers: Gavin Hood (screenplay) Orson Scott Card (author)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld
DVD Release Date: February 11, 2014
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.
Synopsis from IMDb:
The Earth was ravaged by the Formics, an alien race seemingly determined to destroy humanity. Seventy years later, the people of Earth remain banded together to prevent their own annihilation from this technologically superior alien species. Ender Wiggin, a quiet but brilliant boy, may become the savior of the human race. He is separated from his beloved sister and his terrifying brother and brought to battle school in orbit around earth. He will be tested and honed into an empathetic killer who begins to despise what he does as he learns to fight in hopes of saving Earth and his family.
Confession time: I've read Ender's Game, but it has been, like, at least 15 years. I did debate rereading this before watching the movie as I do remember enjoying the book, but couldn't really remember it, but I just frankly couldn't find the time to do so. So while familiar with the story, this review is really going to be about the movie straight instead of a comparison between the book and movie. Although, I will reflect on that a bit as my husband recently read the book and had some serious gripes when the credit's rolled.
Ender's Game is a futuristic story in which Earth is preparing itself for what they believe is an imminent alien attack. Decades earlier, an alien race attacked Earth. Humans were victorious and have been planning their own offensive/defensive strategies ever since. The population is controlled and children are to go through military-type training until it is decided that they should or should not be a part of an elite team of fighters that are recruited and sent into space to the elite Battle School. These children will be the ones to fight the war.
Ender Wiggin is an extremely special child. A rare 3rd (his parents were given permission to have a third child as their previous son and daughter both showed almost perfect genetics), Ender's mind is gifted in military strategy. For example, very early in the movie he gets in a fight with a much larger boy and continues to beat him even after he is down in order to "win all future fights, as well". He is chosen to go to Battle School where he is singled out as special which both repels and attracts his fellow classmates. Which is exactly what Colonel Graff (Ford) wants. Like so many films of this ilk, Ender's Game is all about finding "the one" who can save all of mankind. Ender, of course, shows a brilliant strategic mind and finds ways to divert some of the positive attention on his classmates, too, which is a sure sign of a leader.
I found the movie to be pretty much exactly what I was expecting: a forgettable, but entertaining action film. The visual quality of the film is pretty stunning, especially the shots taken in the "Battle Room" where teams practice fight in zero gravity, as well as the shots of the distant alien planet. The acting was also well done. Asa Butterfield who played Ender was especially good in his role. He has very expressive eyes and I really empathized with this child who is so smart, but isolated and just wants to belong. It's hard not to feel bad for a child who is being trained to be a killer. He also has a sharp edge to him that lets us see that those in charge might have chosen correctly. Harrison Ford was fine as the gruff colonel, but he was just "playing" Harrison Ford. I would love to see him branch out into something like Regarding Henry again. Haliee Steinfeld was great as a girl who befriends Ender at Battle School. I really like this young actress and am excited for what the future holds for her.
For those wanting to know how the movie stacks up to the film I can tell you that my husband was not at all pleased. He said the film really sacrificed a lot of the story in the film. His two biggest complaints was the lack of the "scoreboard" that keeps track of how students are doing at Battle School which plays a large part in the book, and the almost complete lack of back story regarding Ender and his beloved sister. To his credit, I do remember there being a lot more about his relationship with his siblings--both the positive one with his sister and the extremely negative one with his brother. We get a glimpse of it in the very beginning, but those relationships really aren't explored all that much even though Ender writes to his sister and she makes a couple of brief appearances.
Overall, I thought Ender's Game was an alright film. I didn't love it, but I did find it entertaining and visually pretty stunning. The younger actors made the film for me--way more than the veteran actors lead by Ford. If you are looking for a popcorn film to watch this weekend you could do worse.