Ender's Game Movie Review
Based on the popular science-fiction novel from Orson Scott Card, ENDER’S GAME follows a futuristic world where children’s skillful video game abilities has made them Earth’s only hope to survive intergalactic war. As a fan of sci-fi stories, ENDER’S GAME works quite effectively that outside of a rather dark premise dealing with some complex issues, can be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences.
Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) believes he has found the young tactical mind who will lead the human race to victory against an alien attack. Ender (Asa Butterfield) is the youngest of three children who is hopefully the right balance between his brother’s violent temper and his sister’s overly compassionate and sensitive nature. Ender must work his way up the military ranks proving competence through leadership and teamwork. The tests are not only judged by his strategic performances through super cool zero gravity laser tag games but also through social interactions. The best way to initially describe Ender is by what ultimately gets him recruited for this elite military training. After using his environment to help him defeat a larger bully, Ender continually kicks the kid while he is down. The reason was purely tactical to ensure that he not only wins that battle but the next battles as well not to be picked on again.
Not knowing too much about the book or film beforehand allowed me to go into ENDER’S GAME with a fairly open mind and little expectation. What I found was a pleasant surprise in an entertaining film with greater themes on lost innocence, trust, morality and politics within war to name a few. Director Gavin Hood (X-MEN ORIGIN: WOLVERINE, TSOTSI) also wrote the screenplay that while perhaps too simplified is a fun journey teaching positive lessons of compassion, teamwork and anti-bullying.
Seeing Ender’s strategic mastermind work his way through these life obstacles is a fascinating and exciting process making him the unusual underdog that always wins. It’s hard not to root for a team of outcasts defeating their enemies especially when their child-like emotions of having fun or feeling hurt properly come through in their behavior. However, Ender’s main opposition within the training program is created too evilly one-note making his character unbelievable within the structure of who the military is looking for. But aside from a few missteps the characters interact authentically, revealing a couple of nice unconventional surprises.
The supporting cast that includes Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin and Viola Davis are sufficient in their respective roles. But the standout here is the star of the film Asa Butterfield (HUGO, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS) as Ender Wiggin. Casting a child actor as a lead in a film is a tricky task. It’s one thing to write a child character and it is an entirely different thing to see a child actor perform that character on screen. ENDER’S GAME definitely lives or dies by Asa Butterfield’s performance, which he more than delivers, providing a complicated boy becoming a leader in a very heightened coming of age story.
I know many fans of the book who were greatly anticipating this film and I fear they may be disappointed. Clearly, the film rushes through certain segments that probably should be expanded upon. Some points felt as though the character or story was hurried for time constraints and pacing, which is understandable but noticeably uneven. While my review is very positive, I can’t help but think that there was much more potential for ENDER’S GAME to be great rather than just good.