Ender’s Game has always been one of those science fiction novels that’s miraculously stood the test of time, being read by multiple generations and loved for its complex characters and intriguing themes. After so many years in waiting, audiences are given the cinematic equivalent of the Orson Scott Card novel, but a slightly more skeletal version than what many were expecting. The general themes and performances are intact, but that additional layer of complexity that the novel thrives on is missing from this movie which weakens it.
- Director: Gavin Hood
- Writers: Gavin Hood
- Cast: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin
- Cinematography by: Donald McAlpine
- Original Music by: Steve Jablonsky
In the far future Earth has suffered from a massive war against a race of insect-like creatures. Although they were victorious, the military has implemented a program where some of Earth’s young and brightest are molded into the perfect fighters against a future attack. Ender Wiggin (Butterfield) is recruited into the program and thrown into a dangerous place where those in command have different ideas on his fate.
- 114 Minutes Long? Doesn’t Feel Like It: It’s always a relief to sit down and watch a rather long movie, but by the time it’s over it doesn’t feel like too much time has passed. Why is that? Because there’s so much going on in each scene that it captures your attention, making you temporarily forget about time and get fully immersed into this world. While a couple of Gavin Hood’s previous movies felt like you were sitting in the theater for way too long (read: X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Ender’s Game feels like a fast roller coaster ride. Then again, when you’re relying heavily on Orson Scott Card’s source material and the different scenarios Ender goes through in the novel, there’s enough action riddled in there to really help time fly.
- Young Talent: Perhaps the strongest aspect of this movie is the cast, particularly that of the younger performers. Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin have all grown quickly in their own acting technique and it shows in Ender’s Game. The movie is a fantastic showcase for what kind of young actors we should be keeping our eyes on as the years go by. Their exuberant energy and talent made the film more enjoyable to watch, and I can’t wait to see what else these three do in their careers as they grow up. Harrison Ford and the small group of veteran actors also hold up their own but in some ways they come off more as minor characters than anything else by the way the movie is structured.
- Special Effects: Sometimes a science fiction movie lives or dies by it’s computer effects. In the case of Ender’s Game, the movie showcases some fantastic effects of these surreal space environments. The structure of the alien planets and even the look of the monstrous “practice room” that Ender and company are in is riddled with detail. At the same time there may be a little too much detail in the later half of the movie with some of the space battles taking place. Sometimes they cram in so much detail to such a ridiculous degree that it looks like you’re staring at one of those illusion book pages, trying to make out with your eyes what you’re really supposed to be looking at. But hey, the graphics in this were convincing enough to keep my attention.
- Themes: Ender’s Game deals with the obvious exploitation of children, how far will you go to protect your world, etc. The one thing that hurts this movie is how much material and themes they’re trying to cram into one film. The novel is riddled with so much material that it’s practically impossible to touch upon every piece of subject matter within a little over two hours of screen time. Now I’m not suggesting that they had split this up into two movies, that’s just silly, but you can never fully translate a book to the big screen without losing a couple of pieces from the story. Maybe if the structure didn’t feel like them just only going from one battle to another we would have got more of a real grasp on say Colonel Graff’s (Ford) mindset or other supporting characters.
- That Ending: Yes, I am well aware that Ender’s Game is part of a book series and that it doesn’t stop anytime after the novel this movie is based off of. While I was watching the movie, it came off as if it could have ended during several points within the last half hour. Once we get into the real ending, you start to feel that twinge of how much time has passed since you first sat down to watch the film. Everything is fine up until that point where suddenly the movie just slams itself down to the floor and drags. It’s a minor nitpick but it’s noticeable as the film goes on.
- The Vision: The movie adaptation relies heavily on the source material more than anything else. Mr. Hood’s directing style is simplistic but doesn’t exactly stand out next to the big story or the fantastical graphics.
- Eh…: In all honesty there isn’t anything really awful about this movie. It falls into the lukewarm department for me, an average film that has a couple of bumps but nothing truly abysmal weighing the movie down.
Ender’s Game is a decent adaptation that will wows audiences enough with the visual style and solid performances placed in front of them.
Ender’s Game is out in theaters now.