For a movie that seems to be geared toward young adults, “Ender’s Game” deals with several complex issues, including genocide, violence and war.
Based on the novels by Orson Scott Card, this science fiction film is set in the future after Earth was invaded by an alien species. The humans won because of one brave man’s actions that destroyed the mother ship of the aliens. Now, to prevent future attacks, the military started recruiting children for their superior ability to take in new information.
The film follows Ender Wiggin, (Asa Butterfield, “Hugo”) a brilliant child prodigy with a hand for strategy and tactics. He quickly ascends the ranks to the top of his class and is made a commander. He is promoted by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford, “42”) who sees greatness in him. There is a lot of moral ambiguity to Graff and what he does in the film, making him an interesting and complex character. It’s nice seeing Ford back in space and he’s in top form here, playing all aspects of the character really well.
Other mentors for Ender are his sister, Valentine (Abigial Breslin, “The Call”), Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis, “Prisoners”), Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley, “Iron Man 3”) and Petra (Hailee Stienfeld, “True Grit”). Each of these characters has a hand in shaping who Ender is and how he deals with the challenges put upon him.
While at what they call battle school, the children are separated into teams where they play a game similar to paintball or laser tag. The game is interesting, as it is done in zero gravity and is visually stunning and interesting to watch. It’s also an interesting way to get into Ender’s strategic mind and give the audience a glimpse into how he thinks.
The main cast is incredible, each bringing something different to the film. Butterfield’s perfomance is impressive for someone so young. Having to portray this genius character, spouting all the technical futuristic lingo and also giving it emotional resonance could not have been easy. Butterfield nails it and shows his potential as an actor.
The rest of the cast is rounded out with a lot of child actors and some of them do a fine job. Others leave a bit to be desired, and that can pull someone out of the movie a bit. It’s difficult with such a young cast to get everyone up to par. There’s also the problem that many of the bullies in the movie are cliché and the acting comes off as mediocre, as its been done before.
“Ender’s Game” is an interesting science fiction film with thought-provoking concepts. The acting is well done, and it’s well-directed by Gavin Hood (“X-men Origins: Wolverine”). He brings this world to life and in such a broad scope.
The beginning does feel a little rushed in trying to get Ender to battle school. There are things that are glossed over that would have explained or enhanced some plot points.
There is also an amazing twist near the end of the film that is shocking. It’s just so well done and most will not see it coming. It’s an amazing moment and gives Ford and Butterfield their best moments in the film.
There is some controversy over the film involving author Card’s comments against homosexuality, which may impact people’s decision whether or not to see the film. It’s a shame that such a terrific science fiction film has been clouded by this controversy. On its own merits, this is a strong film with first-rate acting and an interesting premise.