Dir: Gavin Hood
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Haille Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, and Harrison Ford
Synopsis: The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth
*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler review as always.*
Based on the popular Orson Scott Card 1985 sci-fi novel of the same name the movie takes place 50 years after earth suffered an attack from the ‘Formics’ – insect-like aliens. Their efforts failed, but millions died during the invasion, and the planet has been awaiting the Formics’ return ever since. The government decides that children are our best chance of survival, training them to take charge of the planet’s International Fleet. The reason is because kids “don’t think the way we think,” they operate at a higher speed, and can handle technology and deal with tremendous amounts of information without getting burnt out.
This is where we see Ender (Butterfield), who has vast intelligence and maturity but he’s also a very troubled boy. From being bullied for being a Third, at this time families are limited to two children, by school mates and his older brother and having both selfless and selfish. Ender, according to Colonel Graff (Ford), is the last and only hope to save the Earth from a possible future attack from the Formics. Graff then gets Ender to practice to become the leader he thinks Ender can be and sends him to Battle School.
The Battle School, a huge space station that orbits the planet, has our young cast, or Launchies as their called, raised on war games and taught the laws of engagement to prepare for the war. The school’s commander, Graff, along with Major Anderson (Davis) see Ender’s true potential and leads some back and forth between the two on how far they are pushing him and if he’s truly the one to stop the war.
It’s at the school where we see Graff do whatever he think is necessary to make sure the students, especially Ender, are ready for the war. Even if it means treating them like they’re not children and that’s where Graff and Anderson bump heads and ultimately shows us how different they view the war.
The big highlight of the Battle School section of the movie is the Battle Room. A giant glass sphere where war simulations are played out in zero-gravity and where the children divided up into teams to wage war against each other. Through these games Ender and his fellow cadets learn tactics and strategy and again learn to become leaders and killers. The zero-gravity scenes look a bit cheesy at first especially when it’s only one of two people but once we see the room filled with everyone flying around and battling it they become great scenes to see.
Unlike my other reviews, I don’t be talking about the final act of the movie to save you from nothing anything. Needless to say, it will make question everything you’ve seen.
As far as the acting goes, this is Asa Butterfield’s show. He does a great job of balancing the emotions and the intensity of Ender as he’s put through the ringer with all the tests and showing how effective he can be as a leader. Harrison Ford’s Graff is a puppet master of sorts, coming off as caring but then completely changes once the stakes get raised. Butterfield and Ford, next to Davis, have the strongest performances in the movie and leads to a great scene between the two at the very end.
The rest of the cast does okay with their roles but nothing really great. Hailee Steinfield’s sharp-shooting cadet Petra has more to do in the movie than she does in the book and Moises Arias miss-cast as bully Bonzo kind of fits but really does nothing. Ben Kingsley as former war hero Mazer Rackham really does nothing for the movie when he pops up in the third act. Abigail Breslin, who plays Ender’s sister Valentine, probably does the best job of the supporting cast (next to Davis and Ford of course). Her compassion for her brother plays a factor on who Ender by the end.
You may have noticed I’ve only about one reference to the book. I do believe you shouldn’t compare the movie to the book too much. The movie does make changes from the book. Valentine and Peter (Ender’s older brother played by Jimmy Pinchak) are very downplayed, with Peter only getting two scenes and Valentine have a handful. That being said the ending is different. There are some minor changes and things that are not even mentioned; Thirds, the governments, the aliens are given a name, the Mind Game (which doesn’t really work) and more importantly the ages of the characters. I personally didn’t mind so much of the changes but I know some fans will.
All in all, Ender’s Game is a pretty descent adaptation. Despite its changes from the book it still manages to work in the end. The effects are great and acting by Butterfield and Ford makes the message at the end mean more.
4 out of 5