Ender’s Game REVIEW
Ender’s Game film review.
“Greedo did NOT shoot first! You got that, mister?”
Release Date: 25 October 2013
2013 | 12A | 114 minutes
Distributor: Entertainment One
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin
In all the controversy that’s blown up around author Orson Scott Card’s ridiculously intolerant stance on marriage equality, it’s almost been forgotten that the original Ender’s Game novel is a cracking, thought-provoking read. This adaptation successfully translates most of the book’s more pertinent themes to the screen, while making enough storytelling fumbles to hint why it was considered unfilmable for nearly three decades.
In Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, the film boasts one of the most complex teen characters you’ll ever see on screen. In a future where humanity was almost annihilated by a race of alien, insect-like “Formics”, he’s the star pupil among a group of genius kids enlisted to think up strategies for the imminent round two. He’s no two-dimensional hero – despite being two steps ahead of his classmates and the faculty, he’s constantly conflicted. He questions the things he’s asked to do in pursuit of victory, yet isn’t afraid to take decisive, brutal action when necessary.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine director Gavin Hood deserves much praise for keeping the darker side of Ender intact, only sanitising a couple of the book’s more unsavoury moments. He’s also lucked out that many of the key themes in the book – drone warfare, the morality of making a first strike for the greater good – are arguably more pertinent than they were when it was written.
Unfortunately, Hood’s overly dry script feels like it’s trying too hard to cram everything in, yet still feels insubstantial. The key character beats are all there, but because you move from one to the next in the blink of an eye, there’s no sense of character evolution – one minute Ender’s a raw rookie, the next he’s an accomplished leader and saviour-of-humanity elect.
In the book, Ender’s growth is charted by his games in the zero-g “Battle Room”, but these scenes are too brief and infrequent to give you a glimpse of what’s going on in Ender’s head. Making them such a small component of the movie is an odd choice, seeing as they would have provided extra eye candy in a space movie that isn’t overloaded with spectacular setpieces.
Maybe Hood was banking on his A-list cast providing the fireworks. It’s a good job all those Oscar nominees (and Asa Butterfield, excellent as Ender) keep up their end of the bargain in style.
Richard Edwards twitter.com/RichDEdwards
Read an Ender’s Game interview with Asa Butterfield.
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