Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some Violence, Sci-Fi Action and Thematic Material
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Written by: Gavin Hood
(based on the novel ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card)
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfield, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Aramis Knight & Suraj Partha
There are specifically two books I remembering reading in Junior High. One of them was the Cirque Du Freak series and the other was Ender’s Game. My memory of the novel itself is hazy at best, so I am judging the film based purely on its merits as a cinematic endeavor and not as an adaptation of a revered classic science-fiction novel. It’s been a long road for ENDER’S GAME to reach the screen. I remember hearing about this project for years with various names attached to direct. Finally, at long last, the film has been released and I can say that it was worth every second of anticipation. This is one of the best pieces of science fiction in a long time.
The setting is a futuristic world where Earth has already been attacked by an attempted invasion by an insect species of alien. Luckily, the humans won, but not without extreme damage taken and thousands of lives lost. Ender Wiggin is a third, a child that never should have been born, and enlisted in a military training program that is preparing for a second war with the bug-like extraterrestrials. After passing numerous tests, Ender is sent up to a boot camp in the stars. There he is trained to wage war through a series of battle games against his peers. He also deals with the frequent bullying from egotistical brats who hate Ender for all of his potential greatness. The war is brewing and Ender must complete a series of simulations that will determine if he can be the greatest commander of all-time.
It may be science fiction, but first and foremost, ENDER’S GAME focuses on characters and the dynamic between them. This would mean nothing if the performances were wooden or the characters dull. Neither is the case. The cast is made up of fantastic talent, both young and old. Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley are veteran actors, but actually play second fiddle to the more than capable young people (who are real teenagers, instead of 20-somethings pretending to be teenagers).
Asa Butterfield takes center stage as Ender Wiggin and displays the complex character. Butterfield was amazing to watch in HUGO and he’s equally amazing here. Abigail Breslin (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and THE CALL) is a secondary character as Ender’s sister and isn’t given a whole lot to do in terms of the story. She makes the most of what she has though. The other real stars of the film are Hailee Steinfield (TRUE GRIT) and Aramis Knight as Ender’s only two real friends aboard the interstellar military school.
The look of the insects is left in the dark for most of the film and this gives a particular scene that much more power. In fact, the entire movie is powerful and very emotional, especially in the finale. The drama of the school environment adds to the realization that this is a human-driven science fiction tale and not one driven by big special effects, elaborate technology or sinister aliens (though all of which have their part in this story). ENDER’S GAME continues an age-old tradition of delivering a message through a futuristic tale, but it doesn’t lessen any of the impact of power of the film! This is one to be remembered!