Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
I wanna be able to hear the book reader’s side of the story when it comes to print to video adaptations. I luckily was accompanied by a fan of “Ender’s Game” He sat in his seat nervously, constantly reminding me that he hopes they don’t ruin the story as well as how hard of a book “Ender’s Game” is to adapt to the big screen. He’s read every single book in the series and still remembers vivid details about each character from Orson Scott Card’s writings. After the first couple of minutes of the movie, I could tell a wave of relief had swept through him.
The world has formed a singular military force after an attempted invasion by an insectoid race known as the Formics. After experiencing a catastrophic loss of life, the military is attempting to find the greatest military mind to prevent anymore future wars with the creatures. They hope to find that military genius in a pool of children who are subjected to rigorous training exercises and strategy classes.One of those kids is Andrew Wiggin (Butterfield), who goes by the name Ender.
He’s not necessarily a social outcast, more than he is the favorite target of bullies because of his superior intellect and his ability to manipulate his foes; giving himself the verbal and physical advantage in a fight. Watching Ender in the distance is Colonel Graff (Ford). He sees Ender as a solution to their bug problem and constantly schemes behind his watchful eyes. Ender is chosen for Command school where he makes allies and enemies amongst other hopeful kids and quickly excels to the top of the class.
This movie is definitely at the top of it’s game with it’s child actors, even though most of these actors are hovering into their upper teens if not their young adulthood. Butterfield is definitely given the toughest task of representing the cold soldier side of Ender as well as the endearing human side. Ender is a fantastic character. He’s a flawed military genius. He pushes himself to find victory, sometimes at the cost of other people’s lives, but when he finally achieves victory, he mourns the death of his foe and questions the morality of his actions.
The special effects are top notch and a lot of the military station sets have a stale beauty. The vibrant paleness in their training simulations breathes life into the dead of space. When the movie pushes in some light-hearted character interactions, they don’t feel cheesy, but instead it’s some much welcomed fun. Even though these characters are being trained to kill, they’re still children who laugh at childish things and we need that emotional breather in this bitter future. Even though this movie presents some questionable ethics, the movie doesn’t find time to give us that moral debate. That’s not to say that we’re still left with a fantastic bit of writing when the issue does rear it’s ugly head.
There’s just this huge nagging problem I had that lingered into the big reveal of Ender’s destiny. I haven’t read the books, but my impression is that the source material is a lot darker. Here we have children being used in the hopes of exterminating a extra-terrestrial species and at times I felt the movie was toning it down in the hopes of finding the sci-fi equivalent of “Hunger Games”. While both deal with children and murder, I feel that there’s a certain enchanting darkness to be found in military leaders, nurturing children through war game simulations. That theme radiates when the adults reward the victor of fist fights. A tweak here and there stopped this from being memorialized alongside other deep space greats, but it’s still a memorable and epic sci-fi movie. Here’s to hoping there’s a rated ‘R’ director’s cut that gives this the perfect rating it was deprived of.