Ender’s Game Review

Genre – Scif-fi, Action, Book-to-Movie Adaptation
Director – Gavin Hood
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.

The Battle Room in Ender’s Game. A reality in our future? Some of us can only hope.

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 anymore).

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!

written by Adrian Puryear and Sherif Elkhatib

Monthly Movie Preview: November 2013

The blockbusters are coming! The blockbusters are coming! November stars off with a bang and keeps getting better. With some big movies on the horizon, it’s hard not to get excited about the action movies, the book-to-movie adaptations and family films coming your way this upcoming month.

November 1 – Ender’s Game

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis

Based off the 1985 book of the same name, Ender’s Game is centered around a young boy who is enlisted into some weird child army to single-handedly eliminate an alien threat and save the world. This child prodigy, played by Asa Butterfield (Hugo‘s title actor), is a very advanced strategist and thinker for his age, which leads him to be outcasted a lot. The book focused on a lot of battle strategy and the “games” he plays to train himself – many of which I think kids would love to play. I’m thoroughly excited to see this movie and think it will translate into a beautiful District 9/Harry Potter sci-fi mash-up.

November 1 – Free Birds

Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Dwight Howard (for reals!)

Okay, so nobody roots for a turkey to win, but that may change after Free Birds comes out. Awkwardly just a few weeks before millions of pounds of turkey are devoured by Americans, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson will lead an animated revolution to go back in time and “take turkeys off the menu.” TOO SOON. The trailer shows lots of good family fun, and enough jokes for adults to enjoy it as well. It looks worth checking out, but with all the other juggernaut films coming out the next few days, it might have served well to come out a little closer to Thanksgiving. Here’s to hoping their plan works!

November 1 – Last Vegas

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, 50 Cent

Imagine Hangover forty years later. Seriously, that’s about it; it’s a little shallow, but with the star-power that comes with this movie, there should be enough momentum to carry it. Aimed towards a different demographic, expect a lot of old people jokes. Actually, that’s really all you should expect. It’s also time that I accept that Morgan Freeman and Robert De Niro are officially old. The scene with Morgan Freeman gathering the courage to jump out of his bedroom window is, and always be, hysterical. Again, with all these action epics out this month, I don’t expect this movie to do well, but will probably be worth a Netflix rental.

November 8 – The Armstrong LIe

Starring: Lance Armstrong’s missing testicle, Lance Armstrong

The Armstrong Lie begins with a humble story. Filmmaker Alex Gibney, enamored with the story of Lance Armstrong, was filming an inspiring documentary about the miracle comeback of an American cyclist. Of course, it ended up being too good to be true, as Armstrong was juicing/doping/whatever. So instead of calling it a day, Gibney gave Lance two middle fingers and decided to turn the positive documentary into one shaming him (although, I don’t know how much more shaming could be done). It’s a documentary I wish ESPN: 30 for 30 would have done, but I’m intrigued nonetheless.

November 8 – Thor: The Dark World

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba

Here comes Thor! It’s been a while since his forgettable movie debut, but the buzz from The Avengers is keeping this character in the spotlight for the time being. Chris Hemsworth does a convincing job as the Thunder God, but we will need more than just GC’ed monsters and backgrounds to make this a good film. The chemistry, as violent as it is, between Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is among the best in all the comic book movies. Odin willing, there is enough substance in the story and supporting acting for this film to give Thor the props he deserves.

November 15 – The Book Thief

Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson

The Book Thief is one of the best young adult novels to come out in recent years.  It can seem a little daunting to read because it has 500+ pages, but so do most of the Harry Potter books.  The Book Thief is so stellar because it is easy to read, yet incredibly thought provoking.  Narrated by Death, we follow a little girl named Liesel who is a German girl growing up under the Hitler regime.  She and her adoptive family are harboring a young Jewish man.  Liesel works around the town and steals books for she and her Jewish friend, Max to read.  Like many wartime stories, especially of such a heavy nature, it can be expected to cry a bit.  I highly recommend seeing this film if it has any resemblance to the book.

November 15 – The Wolf of Wall Street

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau

**UPDATE: It was just confirmed Tuesday that the film would be pushed back to Christmas Day so that Scorsese could kill some babies and try to get it from an NC-17 rating down to an R rating. Sad times, but a great Christmas movie awaits us.**

November 22 – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland

Catching Fire was my favorite book in the trilogy.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t as impressed with the film adaptation of the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy.  And I’m sorry to still harp on this, but why does Peeta still have BOTH LEGS?!  Ok, ok, moving on.  I loved that the previews for Catching FIre only allowed us a glimpse of the Victory Tour for Katniss and Peeta, because it purposefully left out the second half of the book.  I’ll leave it a mystery here, in case you don’t know what happens to our heroine, but I’ll say that it will be worth it to meet a character named Finnick O’Dair, a winner of a previous Hunger Game.  Eeekkk…. nerd girl moment, here I come on November 22!

November 22 – Delivery Man

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt

It’s pretty hard for me to turn down a movie with Vince Vaughn.  In Delivery Man, Vaughn plays a man who learns he is the father to several hundred children due to a mix-up at a sperm bank.  He makes it his mission to have a little part in his kids lives. The movie is a remake of a French film named Starbuck. In time for the holiday season, the comedy with a little bit of a risque theme will most likely be the feel good movie of the month.

November 27 – Frozen

Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Johnathan Groff, Alan Tudyk

The previews for Disney Animated’s Frozen were so creative because they were little short films before the actual movie.  In fact, the first time I saw a preview this summer, I thought it was a short before the film.  The story is about a girl named Anna (Kristen Bell) who is on the search for her sister who has turned the kingdom into a permanent Winterland.  With the help of some wintertime friends, Anna embarks on her adventure.  The movie looks super cute and will be the perfect way to start the winter season.

November 27 – Oldboy

Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L Jackson,

A movie that is a remake of a 2003 South Korean film that is based off a 1996 Japanese manga that stars Josh Brolin. It’s also directed by Spike Lee. Brolin plays a man captured and held prisoner, then forced to watch news update that pin him as the murderer of his wife (surprise!). For twenty years, he watches the world go by from his solitary confinement. Just when he begins to grow a Merlin-scale beard, he is released into the world. From there, it looks like a lot of crazy ensues, and he has sex with hot women and kills a lot of people. The preview kinda made me sad, as I realized that Brolin could easily play a Dark Knight Returns style Bruce Wayne (no knock to Affleck). The biggest story here isn’t going to be Brolin, though, it will be to see if Spike Lee still has the juice. Lee hasn’t really directed a good movie since 2006’s Inside Man and everybody expects big things from everything he puts out.

November 27 – Homefront

Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth

Yet another book-to-movie adaptation of Chuck Logan’s book of the same name, Homefront stars Jason Statham (sidenote: thank God, because it’s been almost six months since I’ve seen Statham shoot anybody in a movie and I was beginning to go through withdrawals) as an undercover DEA agent who is harrassed because his daughter beat the crap out of a bully that happened to be the son of a meth kingpin, named Gator. Gator, played by James Franco, is not Heisenberg. He is a sloppy redneck, and I’m sure there is some elaborate speech where he tells us why his name is Gator. I can guarantee a large body count on Statham’s behalf, and creepily good acting by Franco, but it’s Winona Ryder that will steal the show…. too soon? Anyway, it will be a pretty good movie, but expect a pretty formulaic Statham movie.

November 29 – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris,

Finally, Idris Elba gets his first solo starring role in a major motion picture – and it’s playing one of the greatest civil rights leaders of all time. I’m so excited to see The Wire’s Stringer Bell play Nelson Mandela – and not the South African rugby team (Invictus), not the 

Finally, Idris Elba gets his first starring role in a major motion picture – and it’s playing one of the greatest civil rights leaders of all time. I’m so excited to see Elba play Nelson Mandela. And it’s not as the head of the South African rugby team, it’s the man behind the revolution. This movie should give Elba much needed respect. Although I am bit concerned, as his trademark mustache was not casted for the part, I am glad that this is not a gimmicky portrayal to portray the freedom fighter; actually, this story is based off of Mandela’s own auto-biography. Cue K’Naan’s “Waving Flag;” it’s a wrap!

This month’s list brings us:

  • 10 based off a true story or book to movie adaptations or sequels
  • 3 “original” ideas

Join us next month, as we cover some of this year’s most anticipated films. Action, mayhem and wonder await us in December. Any other movies you are interested in that we did not cover this month? Let us know!

Written by Sherif Elkhatib and Adrian Puryear