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?

SUMMARY

Pros
Great central performance.
Engaging and clever sci-fi story.
Exhilarating zero gravity set pieces.
Cons

Orson Scot Card, and his controversial opinions.
A bit teen-ified at times.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 2.75 out of 5)
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ENDER’S GAME

enders_game_ver20Directed and written by: Gavin Hood
Based on the novel by: Orson Scott Card

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.

Rating: ★★★½☆

The Author

Cathal Ó Míocháin

Cathal Ó Míocháin

What to say...born in the last year of the seventies, the decade of the best music and movies, Cathal's earliest memories are of movies and comics. Star Wars, Batman, Superman and Indiana Jones filled his childhood, and not a whole lot has changed. He lives in Dublin, with his supremely understanding wife. Cathal voice his opinions across the various corners of The IntarWebs: @CatHaloMovies on The Twitter; Cat Halo Movies on The FaceSpace; and on the Major Spoilers Forum, where all manner of opinions are aired by all manner of folk on a wide variety of topics.

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7 Comments

  1. October 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm — Reply

    Sadly, Card is not just “something of a bigot” with “daft opinions.” He has aggressively opposed LGBT equality including working with the ironically named National Organization for Marriage (aka NOM) to fund Ugandan death penalty laws and vicious criminaliztion and marginalization activities in the US.

    Card, LionsGate, and a few of the stars have worked pretty hard to distance him from the film to minimize the controversy. The simple fact is that any ticket sales are going to reward his efforts and in all likelihood generate more money for him to funnel into oppression.

    I’m glad the film is basically enjoyable and doesn’t reflect his views on screen. That doesn’t change the fact that supporting the movie supports some pretty awful behavior.

    My (passionate) two cents.

    • Merkel
      November 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm — Reply

      He actually won’t be seeing any (more) money from the film. His contract payed him one lump sum up front for the rights without any opportunity to negotiate for a piece of the back-end. The only way he will see money from this is if it is hugely successful and get sequels that he could re-negotiate for.

  2. Mike
    October 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm — Reply

    Ender’s game is a book about psychologically torturing children into committing a pointless genocide, and people want to complain that the author has a religious view that dosent fit with their own?

    • October 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm — Reply

      Yep. There are times when the author overshadows the work, and this is most definitely that.

    • gary
      November 3, 2013 at 6:37 am — Reply

      Just saw the movie last night. They do a very good job of not making Graft out as a good guy. Quite the opposite actually, he is much more of a bad guy than the aliens (in the movie).

      Always always always keep in mind that authors write characters that they may or may not like. Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean the author endorses it.

  3. b003
    October 31, 2013 at 8:43 pm — Reply

    Haven’t read the books but it looks good.

  4. gary
    November 3, 2013 at 6:46 am — Reply

    Saw this last night. I also thought the pacing was a bit too quick at the battle school section. They needed a montage or two to help show his progression. The acting was a bit weak in places, but that could just be that the emotions are complicated. Ender almost always had that smoldering rage look on his face, and I was hoping for a little more range from him. Other than that I thought they did as good a job as they could with the movie. That said, I’m not sure it makes the transition to film very well – the whole concept of putting kids in control of the fate of the world is a bit ridiculous. In the book it was a little more believable, though I also first read it when I was like 10 years old. Maybe I was just more gullible at the time.

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