Cast – Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
Alluring element – Based off the 1984 novel of the same name, Harrison Ford returns to space Check it out if you liked – District 9, Harry Potter, the book “Ender’s Game”
Plot – 7 Acting – 8 Representation of Genre – 7 Cinematography – 8 Effects/Environment – 9 Captivity – 9 Logical consistency – 6 Originality/Creativity – 7 Soundtrack/Music – 7 Overall awesomeness – 7
Ender’s Game directed by Gavid Hood is about a young boy (how young? not really sure) named Ender (Asa Butterfield) who is chosen to go to Battle School by Graff (Harrison freaking Ford) and Anderson (Viola Davis). The point of Battle School is to train young people to defend the Earth against the Formics, an alien species who attacked Earth 50 years prior. Ender is bullied on Earth before he is chosen to go, and once he gets to the school in outer space, he continues to be bullied. He proves his worth to his peers by winning some epic looking no-gravity battles. He proves his intelligence to the other students and administrators and then is chosen to “graduate” from Command School where he is trained by Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley). He learns the truth of all his teacher’s motives and the movie, much like the book, has a big twist at the end, leaving many viewers lost.
After watching the film adaptation of controversial author Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, I left the theater feeling a little confused. What was that story really about? Without getting into the brilliant writing in the book, the plot points that were missing in the movie, or Card’s bigoted remarks in the recent past, the logical consistency and moral of the film were just not obvious to the viewer. Without reading the book, I’m not sure that the story would make total sense to a noob, but since I have read the book several times, I am a biased viewer and reviewer. That being said, it is nearly a week later, and I am still wondering what point the director wanted to make.
First and foremost, this is the first time in history that special effects have been advanced enough to be able to make a movie out of the sci-fi book and not be cheesy. The effects were amazing. Particularly the scenes in the Battle Room. There is one Battle Room clip that is so unbelievably bad-ass because Ender, a young kid, is floating up though no gravity sphere, with two guns in his hands and shooting the shit out of all the other little kids. It’s amazing. The visuals of outer-space and the simulation video game Ender plays are creepy, but very enjoyable to watch. So much so in fact, that it isn’t apparent that the plot and logical consistency are not up to par with what other science fiction films are capable of. The scenes are so fast paced that it is hard to catch everything upon the first viewing, or even the second. Ender is being played the whole time by adults, particularly Graff (what a mean man you became, Mr. Ford!) but it is so subtle it is almost non-existent. The best part of the movie were the battle scenes between the kids in the school, but even those scenes were so fast-paced that it was hard to get the true flavor of all the tactics that go into winning those battles. The book was built on tactics, something that the movie only lightly touches on, eliminating a lot of the connection we could have had to Ender.
On top of that, we are exposed to Ender’s family for only a brief time. His parents seem to have no personality or effect on Ender’s life. His only relative who has a positive influence on him is his sister Valentine (played by Abigail Breslin). Valentine also lacks personality in the film, but is mentioned enough by Ender, and is so important the final scenes of the film, that the viewer may be tricked into thinking she was more vital than she really was. On the flip side of the coin, Ender’s intelligence wasn’t as vital as it could have been. He seemed to jump to conclusions a lot and the audience got little to no understanding of his thought process. It was very difficult to grasp his logic because there was little narration of what he was thinking, other than missing Valentine constantly. By not having enough of a 1st person narration, the audience could not possibly have a full understanding of the last 10 minutes of the movie.
On a positive note, isn’t it great seeing Harrison “Han-Solo” Ford back in space? He plays the over-bearing Graff so well. It’s just unfortunate that he’s not in the movie longer. Asa Butterfield plays an endearing Ender. Although the character in the book grows over the ages of 6-12 during the story, this Ender is portrayed as a gentle-yet-capable young manboy, and aside from a few pre-pubescent squeals, Butterfield plays this role very well. There are a few missteps in the child acting, but not every movie with child actors has to be Beasts of the Southern Wild. I felt charmed by many of Ender’s classmates, Bean specifically, and overall the cast is comprised of very solid acting. Breslin’s performance as Valentine was all it could be with the material she was given. She did a good job at being pretty, which was the only “depth” she was allowed to have. However, characters like Bonzo, who is a laughable 5’5″ to Butterfield’s 5’10”, plays a serious bully to Ender in the film and can just never quite be taken seriously (especially considering that his main following comes from his role as Rico on Hannah Montana – a fact I had to look up, I promise! I don’t watch Hannah Montana
SOME SPOILERS AHEAD! Ender suddenly realizes that not only he killed the entire Formic species, but that there is still a queen left, she is just outside of the bunk he has been living in on the planet Command School is, and she is in the cave like structure featured in his video game where Valentine always appears. END SPOILERS 🙂 This isn’t the last half hour of the movie, but it very well could have been. In fact, the last 10 minutes should have been expanded into 30. It wouldn’t have seem so stuck on the end to movie without purpose, giving a false sense of a moral.
All great storytelling, whatever the medium, needs to know the balance of show versus tell. If I’m supposed to believe that Ender is put through hell as a launchie and commander, then I need to be shown that he is going through hell – you can’t just tell the audience using a few quick moments of given dialogue. Ender’s Game is a deeply detailed book, and this team may have bit off too much to chew with it. While the visual elements of Ender’s Game were so captivating, many of the important plot points were either removed or glided over. At the end of the day, a film that clocks in at just under 2 hours and has a problem with depth is something that could have been solved by just going deeper – deeper into Valentine & Peter’s story, deeper into Ender’s rise to stardom at Battle School, deeper into the incredibly enthralling battle scenes and political and war commentary that made this book such an amazing story to begin with. The target audience was (I assume) middle schoolers to the 40 somethings who read the book when they were in high school. I am certain that audience would have appreciated a longer movie with more depth in the characters and more logical consistency. It was a sci-fi movie that will most likely be forgotten, which is unfortunate, because the story the book tells is anything but forgettable. A better moral, a better story and unfortunately, the ugly remarks of Orson Scott Card not ever happening would have made Ender’s Game the film something worth unanimously touting on all angles.
Don’t let this book make you leave the theater feeling empty or scare you from seeing it altogether. The movie is not a shell of the book it spawned from; no, let it be the foreplay for enjoying one hell of a story. Let it inspire you to read a book about a young boy and his journey. If you are interested in seeing the film, I strongly suggest seeing it in theaters. The special effects are amazing on the big screen!