Despite author Orson Scott Card’s recent dabble in bigotry, the big screen adaptation of his critically acclaimed 1985 novel “Ender’s Game” brings more to the table than simply just another over budgeted blockbuster, but not much more. Many of the moral complexities and deep characterizations present in the novel are absent, however it is a story that feels more socially relevant now than ever before.
The film takes place in a world ravaged by an alien invasion years before, where mankind develops a new way of combatting the ever-present threat of another attack. By training the world’s most promising youths, they intend to create an adolescent army to command Earth’s forces against the menace.
Directed by Gavin Hood, "Ender’s Game" stars Asa Butterield as Ender Wiggin, the young prodigy that very well may be the human race’s last hope of survival. Harrison Ford plays Colonel Graff, the man in charge of shaping and molding Ender into the ultimate commander he always envisioned him to be.
The bulk of the film follows Ender along with his classmates as they go through training to become elite child soldiers and do their planet proud. While all of the students show varying degrees of expertise, Ender stands above the rest, showing a proficiency in advanced strategy as well as compassion to understand his enemy. In this future, families are only permitted two children unless the parents pay for a third. Ender is the third child and carries the personality traits of both his brother, who is quick to violence, and his sister, who shows too much compassion.
Although the trailers for this film promised nothing more than another action spectacle, with average looking CGI, it’s thankfully much more entertaining than that. While the action set pieces are exactly what one would expect, it’s everything that happens beforehand that makes the film worth seeing. The interesting cast of characters and their relationships with one another provide some surprisingly earnest moments during the training sequences. This makes up for the lackluster visuals that are nothing more than mediocre.
Throughout the film, as Ender battles with the decisions he knows he’ll have to make, there are several sequences involving him playing a video game on a tablet. These poorly animated scenes are entirely too long, and contribute to the film’s runtime feeling bloated. By this point, the viewer should already have an idea of how Ender feels about the situation, so it seems extraneous to add these, not to mention the fact that they look ridiculous.
It goes without saying that the definitive version of Ender’s story lies within the pages of the novel, however this is not the utter disaster this critic believed it would be. It’s decidedly more Hollywood and would have benefited from more character interaction, but it’s still a solidly entertaining popcorn flick.