For those who know my opinion on the writer of this book, his stances and my own choices regarding this film: I have not changed nor violated them. I am, however, working to become a professional reviewer of film. While I can choose to watch or not watch any film I wish and will continue to do so should someone foolishly think they could pay me to watch a movie I do not support, I will need to review it. That day is a long way off, but in the meanwhile, we have a Sci-Fi movie released which had I *not* known about the original author would have likely seen. So I feel I owe it to my readers to cover this film.
All of this disclaimer aside let’s talk about Enders Game the movie.
The movie is based on a critically acclaimed and award winning book released in 1985. The author Orson Scott Card has written twenty two different stories along the arc of Ender and the world around him. The subsequent releases were not always told in chronological order and may not even involve the titular character directly. I cannot comment on the contents of the book, its arc or how much the film is different from the source; though I am told by my best friend it is a good book.
The story itself focuses on a young boy, approximate age 12 in the movie, named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield – Hugo) . He is a cadet in some form of military academy where every move is monitored. The monitors are Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis). After being put through an uncomfortably vicious and devious test by the monitors he is given the chance to attend an advanced school. The ultimate goal in this world is to use the youth and adaptability of children to create the next generation of military leaders in order to defeat an insect like enemy called The Formics who invaded us years ago and nearly destroyed us. Ender is put through even more challenges that grow increasingly difficult and separate him from his support structures. His sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin – Zombie Land), his classmate Petra (Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit), and any other friends he makes. The entire time creating enemies of other classmates. Eventually Ender graduates to command school and is put through even more simulations that pit his computer avatars against avatars of the enemy. Graff is determined to make Ender some form of messiah for the human race capable of ending the war with the Formics.
Ok thats the background and if you think its complex, the movie only does a marginally better job of executing on the principles. I lay that on a screenplay by the movies director Gavin Hood. This is the same director who gave us X-men origins: Wolverine in 2009. The rest of the review will wait for you to finish bashing your head on your desk from being forced to remember that abomination of celluloid. Hood is given the gift of good actors and solid source material that made it hard to screw up. He almost does at times and I am not sold on the ending in any way shape or form. There are some elements mid way through the film that even when fully explained make no bloody sense. There are also significant pacing issues that made me feel like I was in stop and go traffic on a California highway. Thats where actors come in.
The movie is absolutely dependent upon its children. Sixteen year old Asa Butterfield must carry this film on his shoulders. It lives and dies on his ability to cover the complexity of Ender. He shows the stress the character is placed under in one moment and then shifts to a calculating and tactical genius in the next. There are times he doesn’t work as well, where the character comes across just a bit too strong and others insufferably weak. It could be due to the age of the character, the way the character was written, bad directing or bad acting. I can’t say specifically, but it is a flaw. Sadly both his female costars (Breslin/Steinfeld), whom are both Oscar nominated for previous works, are given precious little screen time. They do well with what they have and again this may be directorial or story that keeps them out. I wish I could have seen more of both young women as they are quite talented and make the most of the time they are given.
As far as the adults. Hrm. I am torn. I want to say they did well. It’s Harrison Ford for crying out loud. Viola Davis and even Ben Kingsley. This performance almost lets me forgive BK for Iron Man 3 earlier this year. Almost. There’s just something about them in this movie that feels too much. Just a bit over the top and a bit shallow at the same time. The actors are fine, there’s just something intangibly wrong with it.
The technicals on this one are fine. The “Game” visuals are entertaining as is the 3D training battle ground.
I cannot in good conscience say to anyone see this movie as I want to deny Orson Scott Card any residuals. That being said, the movie was engaging until the last fifteen minutes and surprisingly entertaining. Those last few minutes are critical and completely destroy any goodwill the previous two hours brought.
Overall – the movie is an ok entry into the Sci-Fi genre this year. We’ve had better and we’ve had worse. It exists and some folks will truly enjoy it. Others don’t share my opinions on the author and do not have the same issues I do with seeing it.
For those folks, I respect your opinion and right to have them, I will say see it as a Matinee. I really do believe the end of this one hurts the overall narrative. (even if it was in the book, it was really ham handed).
Curious – Cheap Seats (most of the money then goes to the house not the studio)
On the Fence? – Netflix
The rest of ya’ll – Give it an absolute pass.
Tomorrow night I review one of the most anticipated movies of the fall – Thor 2: The Dark World