Ender’s Game came out in 2013 and is based off the book by Orson Scott Card. The film was directed and written by Gavin Hood and stars Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Abagail Breslin, and Ben Kingsley. I am not a book reader so I went in clean not knowing a thing about this story. I found the film enjoyable, but it could have worked better as a mini-series. The story felt suffocated into a 2-hour film but for what was accomplished here, it was solid.
A brief synopsis of the story – Asa Butterfield plays Ender Wiggin, who is recruited by Colonel Graff (Ford) and is needed to help prevent a war with the Formics, who is an alien race that almost wiped out civilization previously. While Ender is young, he is smart and tactical and Graff knows it. He comes from a line of siblings that have tried to enter the International Fleet but both failed due to their personalities. Ender is taken to a space station for training with other recruits and Graff promotes Ender as the best of the team which doesn’t make having friends easy. Even though he’s been outcast, Ender shows his worth through training and his intellect, getting his friends and promoted where he meets Petra, played by Steinfeld. These two hit it off immediately, which I felt was a bit forced and not earned. One minute Ender arrives as a complete stranger and meets the only girl in the Salamander squadron and then next minute they’re holding hands doing training. Again I feel this story could have benefited from a mini-series. Throughout the way, Ender goes through physical and mental training from playing cerebral games to going to battle in the Battle Room training facility. Ultimately the training for the Formics comes to a head and there are consequences for everyone involved.
I did enjoy the Battle Room sequences and the simulations near the end of the film. The zero gravity look felt authentic. The reveal in the 3rd act was also pulled off well as I didn’t see that coming at all, which was devastating. The acting was good for the most part. When you have a movie with a lot of kids, it could be hit or miss but Butterfield and Steinfeld led the way with good performances as did Ford. It’s rare to see Ford as a “bad guy” but he does have shades of grey to his character that make you not root for him for some of the movie based on his motivations and choices he makes. Also, the tradeoff for the rushed story was the CGI which was gorgeous. The sets also made the movie feel authentic. As far as other issues with the film, I really didn’t like Ben Kingsley’s aboriginal accent as it was barely intelligible. Subtitles may be necessary for when he pops up on the screen. A couple weird side notes, both related to Game of Thrones. One, listen to the track Battle Room by Steve Jablonski, very good score by the way, and then listen to Danerys Targareyn’s theme from the show below. Interesting coincidence. Two, there happens to be a squadron called the Dragon Squadron. Now obviously the book came out before George R.R. Martin’s books and obviously there are all kinds of books involving dragons but it wouldn’t have caught my attention if not for that track.
Ender’s Game is a solid sci-fi film that has a good story, good acting, and a nice twist in the 3rd act but also suffers from just being crammed into a 2-hour movie where this story could flourish in an 8 episode mini-series on Netflix. I do recommend this movie though as it’s a good watch.
Ender’s Game gets a 6.5/10