It’s been 50 years since the earth repelled an alien invasion, and now children are trained from a very young age to be military tacticians and leaders. Can genius child Ender Wiggin be the supreme commander that we need? Can the movie live up to the classic novel?
Great central performance.
Engaging and clever sci-fi story.
Exhilarating zero gravity set pieces.
Orson Scot Card, and his controversial opinions.
A bit teen-ified at times.
Ender Wiggin – Asa Butterfield
Colonel Graff – Harrison Ford
Petra Arkanian – Hailee Steinfeld
Valentine Wiggin – Abigail Breslin
Mazer Rackham – Ben Kingsley
Major Gwen Anderson – Viola Davis
Right, I’m going to address the elephant in the room right at the beginning. Orson Scott Card is something of a bigot. There. I said it. However, that really no bearing on this movie. Unless, of course, the aliens are gay, but I doubt it. Regardless of these daft opinions of his, Ender’s Game is a legitimate sci-fi classic (but I should admit that I’ve not actually read it). This isn’t a teen-lit book. It is hard sci-fi, has been around since 1977 as a short story, then as a novel in 1985, touches on some serious topics…and I feel this movie does a damn good job of bringing it to the screen.
ASA IS A GREAT ENDER
The movie opens big, getting stuck right in. The world is set-up quickly, and oddly believably. In terms of Star movies it feels more Trek than Wars. Once we get a quick and effective history, we’re introduced to our eponymous hero: Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, and our star Asa. This is his movie, and he is rather wonderful, right from the off. He carries the whole movie on his slender shoulders, and does so brilliantly. Ender definitely isn’t a Harry Potter, or a Katniss. If anything, he’s more of a Batman type. In so much as he is always 10 steps ahead, has thought everything out, and isn’t afraid to go the extra morally-murky mile to get the job done. Asa embodies all of this wonderfully, you can see the cogs at work with everything he says and does. If Ender didn’t work, the movie just doesn’t work. Fortunately, he does, so it does,
The remainder of the cast are all pretty good. Ford is pleasantly good, and is definitely not just channeling Han, or Indy. He is something of a prick, but a prick with plan, and a righteous purpose. The rest of the cast are good, but nobody really stands out. Kingsly is Mauri cool. Steinfeld is okay, as is Breslin, but neither really gets a whole lot to do. His cadre of perfectly ethnically diverse friends are an inoffensive bunch of child actors. Nobody stands out, but also nobody really lets the side down.
FUN, SMART, AWESOME LOOKING ACTION
Writer/Director Hood redeems himself, in my mind at least, following his disappointing Wolverine movie. The story really does tick along, with Ender’s progression through the ranks being quick. Very quick. Maybe a little too quick. If you’re willing, you will just get swept up in the scale and set-pieces. The Battle School zero gravity game thing is brilliant, and fun. You could argue it is the Quiddich of this movie. It all looks brilliant, and these are some of the best moments in the movie. Ender’s big hero moment in his first zero-G game is exhilarating, and considerably cool. Genuinely heart-poundingly-cool. The battle simulations of the final act are also very cool. These scenes are cleverly, excitingly, and inventively done. These big action scenes draw you in more than you’d expect.. This is in no small part to the stirring, but not over-bearing music. It is massive, melodic, and sweeping.
As said earlier, this is a very good sci-fi story, and world. It is well thought out, based on a sci-fi classic, and touches on some serious topics, and deals with some serious crap: war crimes: government sanctioned child soldiers; genocide; the psychology of Ender; the Cuban missile crisis; games desensitizing kids to the reality of violence; the pressure put on children to win/achieve (High school football, etc). Thankfully, there’s no gay bashing. The ending packs quite a punch, visually, emotionally, action-y, story-y. Then it keeps going ever so slightly too long, getting a little daft, and trippy.
BOTTOM LINE: SOLID SCI-FI FUN
So…I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It may not actually be as good as I felt it was, but I got swept right up in to it. Asa is really good, and we see a different side of Ford. If you can get by the fact that Orson Scott Card may get some pennies from the cost of your ticket, then I strongly recommend this movie. It’s not a classic by any stretch, but it is a good sci-fi story, told well, with a strong central performance, and some sweet battle scenes.