Film Review: Ender’s Game
Tweetable Review: Intriguing in score, complex in setup and entertainingly large in projection – Ender’s Game is an enjoyable ride but the thrill won’t keep past the end credits.
For those who read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game when the Action/Sci-Fi novel was originally released, it may have seemed like a grand & lofty idea to adapt the material into a film. Of course, that was prior to IMAX even being a smudge on Pop Culture & the likes of Iron Man, Armageddon and that other space film starring Sandra Bullock had even graced the Silver Screen. Time travel ahead a few decades and the World is now on the brink of Summit Entertainment’s release of this month’s Ender’s Game, and Gavin Hood proves that Scott Card’s material is intense but still forgettable.
For those who haven’t cracked the originals’ bindings, Ender’s Game frames itself around the devastating attack of Earth by the insect‐like Formics. Anyone having survived the first attack spends their years readying for a repeat through the nurturing of a new generation of child geniuses to be trained as warriors.
The planet’s best and brightest youngsters are selected to attend Battle School, an orbiting space station where they compete for a chance to become a commander of the International Forces. Enter, Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield), an exceptionally intelligent, empathetic, and strategic brilliance that attracts the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford), and soon promotes the young student to command school, under the severe tutelage of Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), the brilliant general who defeated the Formics years earlier. After having shown rapid growth in learning and skill, Ender is promoted to lead his fellow students in simulated war games against enemy forces. But as the boy prepares to face his final test, gnawing doubts about the monumental task lies ahead.
As an adaptation, director/writer Hood has applicably taken Scott Car’s original material and threw on screen what could stick in a film that’s just slightly under 2 hours. As one might expect from a novel that was 384-pages in length, basic plot points and major story-moving elements have remained solid and in-tact while discarding anything extraneous; while some may question the material as sub-par, for a Sci-Fi property that is marketed and geared for teenagers with a push toward special effect design and lessons in morality and politics of war, Hood remains admirable here. Pacing is kept neck-bracingly high to cram as much information, exposition and action points for those not familiar with the story. The outcome is a train of momentum that will keep the ADD-riddled young of today engaged, but will leave those with investment in a feeling of fatigue.
In a Season that has seen the release of one of the most game-changing and realistic portrayals to an actual Space environment, Ender’s Game comes to the masses with a $100 million dollar budget as a possible competitor. As a whole, Donald McAlpine (cinematography) & A. Todd Holland (Art Director) have combined to give audiences an action film that is steeped in Sci-fi and primed for video game fans. The Worlds of ships and planets is massive and appealing, while the battle & action scenes are calculated and take full advantage of the IMAX projection without giving way to the Michael Bay action of confusion, bright lights, shiny objects and explosions – in a nutshell, you can actually tell what is taking place.
Hugo star Asa Butterfield portrays an aggressively calculated yet compassionate hero against Harrison Ford’s gruff & perverse Colonel Graff, and Viola Davis’ opinionated & pessimistic Major Anderson. The always enjoyable Ben Kingsley manages to fill out a Guru-esque Mazer Rackham, but lands a bit short with muddled acting choices and dialect that doesn’t quite pick a homeland. The teen casting has been well-seasoned in ethnicities with notable roles from bullying Moises Arias (The Kings of Summer) and Oscar Nominated Hailee Steinfeld as Butterfield’s squad-mate Petra.
Yes, Ender’s Game certainly has some issues and most deal with the storytelling – the dilemma of using children as soldiers & eradication of a species based on knee-jerk reactions are among some of the strongest, but are also some of the best thinking points that the controversial Scott Card is posing to readers. Overall, Ender’s Game lives on in great graphic detail and battles that are beautifully effective. The film is a solid portrait of the original characters & plot points, and while Ford & Butterfield are great to watch, due to a rushed pacing and thin character relationships – Ender’s Game is a one-watch film that is worth the IMAX ticket price, mainly because it’s the only time audiences will need to see this Sci-Fi adventure take place.
Fresh Roasted Rating: C
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~ Matt Miles, 24/7 Contributor
Producer of Fresh Roasted Films
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