Ender’s Game Review
Posted by Terry Lewis on 11.01.2013
Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley star in Ender's Game, the adaptation of the iconic sci-fi novel! But is it a quality adaptation or are important parts sacrificed for the sake of it becoming a film? 411's Terry Lewis checks in with his full review!
Asa Butterfield - Andrew “Ender” Wiggin Harrison Ford - Colonel Graff Ben Kingsley - Mazer Rackham Viola Davis - Major Anderson Hailee Steinfeld - Petra Abigail Breslin - Valentine Wiggin Jimmy Pinchak - Peter Wiggin Nonso Anozie - Sargeant Dap
I was speaking to 411’s own Ben Piper the other day and he was ticked off about how movies are creatively bankrupt nowadays and filled with countless reboots. He’s not wrong with constant scenarios being played out time and time before, cribbed from one starting block. The basic starter plot to Ender’s Game of “Boy saves the galaxy” has been seen before in other mediums yet itself has never been brought from page to film properly. To be fair, surely if you’re a fan of the original source material, at some level you’d love to see a big glorious film adaptation even in these bleek uncreative days right… right?
Adapting Orson Scott Card’s original book, we are introduced to an Earth that was ravaged by an insectoid alien race before being pushed back. 50 years on and not wanting to go through the same fate again, the International Fleet launch an initiative to put the best young child and teen minds as part of their military forces as they can think and process quicker than adults. One child in the academy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield, Hugo), is picked out for his intelligence and attitude to winning. Advancing up though the ranks at the space station military Battle School under the watchful eye of Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford, 42), Ender soon finds himself with the fate of the human race in his hands as he enters Command School to finish his training.
I absolutely loved Butterfield’s portrayal of the kid who will not back down when put into a situation, then puts a stop to it so it won’t happen again. He’s the kid who bullies pick on for being cleverer than them at the academy, so he breaks their arms so they won’t come back. That almost cold logic is just what the military needs hence Ender being sped through the Battle School programme. Ender is totally sympathetic as the boy shoved into his grown up world of war games and leading the human race’s army with doubts of if it’s needed in a delicious clash of militarism vs. pacificism. It would have been nice if they played up to Ender’s emotional breakdown a bit more but can’t have everything I suppose and the rewarding Butterfield is good enough to invest your time in.
You’d think Ford would have a fairly weighty screentime here but no. He’s still highly effective as the Colonel with the agenda who will do anything to win this war at any cost. The evolution from sweet talking Ender and his family into going to Battle School, curbing him emotionally to cope with what’s to come and the sucker punches he keeps throwing at the poor kid pay off handsomely, all wrapped neatly in a brilliant two faced performance from Ford. Ghandi himself Ben Kingsley is utterly memorable as a facial tattooed trainer in an enjoyable supporting cast.
I’ll put my hands up here – I’ve never read the Ender’s Game series at all and relied on my friend to bring me up to speed what to expect. Although Card at times has said the book is unfilmable due to the fact it’s all in Ender’s head, it’s not a bad conversion at all. As a film, it comes across as ”Space Hunger Games” at times, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Despite the content leaning towards a more darker tone, I have to give props to director Gavin Hood for creating bang on childish wonder in the training dome at Battle School with the kids testing out the stun guns and playing with the space cubes in a nicely balanced tone. Definitely a step in the right direction after his last project, the remarkably dodgy X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Forgive me for wandering near Sort of SPOILERS territory but if you’re a fan of the ending of the book and it’s emotional impact then you maybe left wanting more as it’s severely streamed down. In fact there’s a big loss of emotional impact somewhat. The idea behind couples only being allowed two children and the Government having to convince Ender’s parents to have a third to balance out the emotion and genius between Ender’s siblings is clever but only touched upon in the film. Despite his obvious brilliance, Ender feels like an outcast – he’s special as a third child so to him failure is not an option and he can’t keep it together with all the pressure on him. That's great as well but again not followed up on. From what I've read up about the Ender’s Game series, it doesn't go through the conversion to the big screen in it's best form.
Then again, if you've not touched the series before, it's still a decent sci-fi flick. The battle simulator at Command School plays host to some grand space battles with some sweet battle tactics. The modern origin of “youth at the heart of war” gets it's adaptation finally with some reasonable debate about what happens to these kids after the war is over. The bulk of the film is set in the Space academy and it's been since I've seen one of those done well and does enough to strike away of any ”Harry Potter in Space tags I've seen some people label it with. The survivor's guilt aspects are ace and I can see what they were going for in the ending albeit it feels a tad rushed and it isn't set up very well.
The 411: As a cinema goer, I found Ender’s Game to not be overly groundbreaking but a highly watchable space war training school film. There are some good themes about warmongering and putting youth as the lead of your armies but the juicy emotional responses aren’t quite there nor are some of the book's more interesting subplots. Still, space battles and watchable characters make up for it although fans of the original book may feel like the film is missing a few pages from the book.