By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
Ender's Game (Summit Entertainment)
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.
Starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Aramis Knight, Suraj Partha, Moises Arias, Khylin Rhambo, Jimmy 'Jax' Pinchak, Nonso Anozie, Conor Carroll.
Written by Gavin Hood, based on the novel by Orson Scott Card.
Directed by Gavin Hood.
Good sci-fi seems hard to find these days. That shouldn't be the case, since there are so MANY science fiction writers with countless books out there, not to mention all the ones who have passed on. One of the more prolific science fiction authors in the game is Orson Scott Card, a successful and highly controversial man who penned the famed novel Ender's Game way, way back in the late 1970s. It took a little time, but his signature work of literature has finally been adapted for the big screen.
Asa Butterfield stars as Ender Wiggin, a gifted teenage boy participating in a youth military program sometime in the distant future. Years before, the Earth's military forces thwarted the invasion of a bug-like species dubbed “formics,” leaving leaders with the fear of another attack. Part of their preparation includes the youth military training program, because they think kids are able to learn battle strategies better than adults (especially due to their natural talents for video gaming).
When Ender is offered a chance to join an elite military academy in space by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), he must leave his family behind, including his beloved sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin), who acts as his protector and moral compass. When Ender arrives at the space academy orbiting the planet, he immediately makes a few enemies by showing them up with his superior intellect and gift for strategy. Along the way, Ender also makes a few friends, including Petra (Hailee Steinfeld) and Bean (Aramis Knight). As the kids learn to work together, Graff is convinced that Ender is ready to lead a team of kids on an attack against the Formic home planet – in order to end the formic threat once and for all.
As Ender leads his team through computer game simulations, the day of the great battle arrives, and Ender must decide whether to simply win the battle or annihilate the formics altogether.
Ender's Game is at times brilliant, both in its outstanding visual effects and thought-provoking moral dilemmas concerning war and the proper response to being attacked. All positives aside, Ender's Game also contains a lot of head-scratching scenes that make no sense, especially the ones involving Valentine. Harrison Ford, Viola Davis (as one of Graff's advisors) and Ben Kingsley (as an old war hero of the first formic attack) give the film a little more gravitas, while the younger cast mates do an adequate job, although Butterfield stands out a little more than the others.
I enjoyed the final battle and moral quandary in Ender's Game, but all the aforementioned defects left me more confued than impressed with the movie.
Even so, Ender's Game is a lot better than other science fiction fantasy films of late – especially when compared to Cloud Atlas and the atrocious After Earth.
Alas, good sci-fi is still hard to find.