Review: “Ender’s Game” is more than just sci-fi adventure

November 1st, 2013 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment
"Enders Game" poster courtesy Summit Entertainment

“Enders Game” poster courtesy Summit Entertainment

“Ender’s Game” (2013)
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Adventure

My spoiler-free review:

“Ender’s Game” has the ingredients to make a hit: kids getting military training to save the world from a hostile alien species, a solid cast, and the foundation of a award winning book.  While its a thrilling space adventure for both kids and adults, the movie stops short of becoming a sci-fi classic… I give it 7.9 out of 10.

I’m told that for those who read the 1985 book “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card, it stays pretty true to the source material.

The movie looks slick… with effects that are very good plus sets and wardrobe that are solid… from the Battle Room training facility to the effects of the training simulations and outside to space… the precision of the visuals is one of the most easily notable elements of the movie that start to create the world for the audience.  Nothing feels fake – in the effects, the story, and the acting… I’m watching a story unfold…. not the disconnect when you start to notice the ‘movie’.

50 years after the alien attack that killed millions, the International Fleet (military group led by Harrison Ford’s character Colonel Graff) is preparing for the aliens’ expected return so they thrown billions of dollars towards technology and the training of the world’s smartest children.  ’Ender’ Wiggins is one of those kids who are under scrutiny because he’s expected to be able to lead the fleet someday.  Asa Butterfield is great as the smart, but often rebellious whiz kid who can develop strategies fast and process information even faster.  Butterfield carries the weight of his characters’ past and expectations of his future in expressions on his face.  But he’s a kid we root for… as he shows his strategical skills and develops repore with his team members and some of his superiors.

The now grizzled sci-fi veteran actor Ford is well cast as the leader of the group set out to stop the aliens from attacking again… he’s perfectly suited for the gruff, stubborn Col. Graff.  Viola Davis adds strength to the adult cast as the moral compass… Nonso Anozie (Sergeant Dap) is very likeable as one of the few moments of comic relief in the movie… while Ben Kingsley works pretty well as a trainer, however his character’s australian accent is shaky at times and distracting.  The strong young cast led by Butterfield includes the talents of Oscar hopefuls Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin plus Aramis Knight and Suraj Partha, amoung others… they’re all playing their characters very well… to the point where their acting is hardly noticeable… a huge compliment.

In a year with more than a dozen big budget science-fiction movies, “Ender’s Game” is a solid entry, better than “Man of Steel”, “The Wolverine”, “Pacific Rim”, and “The Host”, but not as good as “Gravity”, “Iron Man 3″, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “Oblivion”, and “Elysium” because (possible spoilers) ….

The Cold (possible spoiler) – “Ender’s Game” is more examination than immersion – we are watching but not feeling a deep connection with the main character.  And a big scene near the end of the movie just didn’t have the emotional resonance it should have had… like getting the wind knocked out of you… feeling faint, emotionally sick, dropping to the knees… one or all of those should have been experienced on screen to highlight the impact of what we’ve learned.

The Unexplained (possible spoiler) – Ender’s ”team” shows up at command training with no explanation of how they got there… we assume he was moving on and ahead of them.  When he went off to training, I was expecting him to have to fit in with yet another group.

The Missing - I expected/would have liked to see more archive footage of the alien attack aftermath (borderline propaganda) that started it all and could explain why all the kids want to be part of the program/International Fleet.


“Ender’s Game” 

Cast: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Aramis Knight, Suraj Partha, Moises Arias, Khylin Rhambo, Jimmy ‘Jax’ Pinchak, Nonso Anozie, Conor Carroll

Director: Director/Writer: Gavin Hood ["X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009)]

Writer(s): Based on the book ‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card (1985)

The Plot: The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

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One Response to “Review: “Ender’s Game” is more than just sci-fi adventure”

  1. Carolyn says:

    Is “Ender’s Game” one of those that are better to see in 3D? (or is it not even available in 3D?)

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