Director: Gavin Hood
Screenwriter: Gavin Hood
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Moisés Arias
Rated PG-13 | 114 Minutes
Release Date: November 1, 2013
Written and directed by Gavid Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Ender’s Game is based on the 1985 science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card.
After an alien species attacks Earth, the International Fleet prepares for an inevitable second strike by training the best and brightest children to find a commander who can fill the shoes of the legendary war hero Mazer Rackham.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy but strategically brilliant boy, is recruited to join the International Fleet and attend Battle School. Located in Earth’s orbit, Battle School is a military academy where young cadets participate in competitive war simulations in zero gravity.
After mastering the increasingly challenging war games, Ender is promoted to Command School by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis), who think he could be the legendary military genius they’ve been looking for. Once there, he is trained to lead a war that will determine the future of Earth and the human race.
Distributed by Summit Entertainment, Ender’s Game is a teen-targeted mash-up of Starship Troopers and The Last Starfighter with a dash of Harry Potter. Gifted
brats youngsters attend a fascist military academy where they learn to follow orders and become cold-hearted killers.
In the future, it seems, everyone is an asshole. That’s the biggest problem with Ender’s Game – all the characters are entirely unlikeable. The film is filled with stiff, duplicitous adults and battalions of bratty, aggressive pre-teens with ADHD who excel at violence. Even the characters you’re supposed to root for – Ender and his fellow cadets – are cold and seemingly devoid of compassion.
Hood successfully translates most of the book’s more pertinent themes to the screen, but his film fails to be emotionally engaging or thought-provoking. Too often the emphasis is placed on top-notch production design and big-budget special effects instead of the story, which has been stripped down and streamlined considerably.
It is impossible to invest in an “epic” space battle when 99.9% of everything whizzing past you is computer-generated. Everything looks like a video game cut scene, with shiny, over-polished pixels smashing into each other while kids dual wield touchscreen displays to control yet more pixels.
Ender’s Game does, however, have its moments – the Battle School zero-gravity games are exquisitely choreographed – but wooden performances, unlikeable characters, and a story that feels rushed make Gavin Hood’s film just another disposable sci-fi flick for young adults. It isn’t nearly as bad as After Earth, but it lacks the humor and heart a film like this needs to connect to its audience.
Many have called Orson Scott Card’s novel “unfilmable” – it’s been in development Hell for 28 years after all – but the ironic part about all of this is, in an age where anything is possible through computer-generated effects, the filmmakers forgot to tell an actual story worth seeing.
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