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Though not perfect, "Ender's Game" puts on a good show (DVD review)

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Ender's Game

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Ender's Game (2013)

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld

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It has been a generation since the last major victory for humans. When Earth was attacked by an alien species known as the Formics, its defenses were rocked and sent reeling. For decades, the human military has schemed and strategized, but they have continually come up short. The humans have resorted to recruiting children as their soldiers. They think differently than adults. Their strenuous training teaches them to treat war as a game. And, of all the children, one stands tall as, perhaps, Earth's last hope. Ender Wiggin (Butterfield), a brilliant young boy, has been chosen to lead a teenage army in one last stand against the Formics.

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The Breakdown:

Based on author Orson Scott Card's book of the same name, "Ender's Game" follows the emotional journey of Ender Wiggin as he is recruited to an outer-space military school. The story shows his struggles, his trials, and his determination as he wills himself to the top of the ranks and subsequently trains a squadron of other bright military minds. Fans of the book series waited nearly 30 years for Ender and company to hit the big screen. With a promising young actor in Butterfield and a veteran like Harrison Ford (who plays Colonel Graff, the leader of the school), most would likely attest that it was worth the wait.

Visually, the movie really excels during fights at the battle school, where the anti-gravity war games showcase some really cool special effects. In fact, the graphics get better and better as Ender progresses through the military school, culminating in a pretty awesome conclusion. Couple those battle scenes with a soundtrack that really picks up toward the end of the movie and you've got yourself quite the intense little space saga.

As with many other movies that build a cast around young actors, some of the acting comes off as being a little cheesy or annoying, but Butterfield does a good job, overall, and a couple of the other kids provide glimpses of greatness. Also, as a side note, Ben Kingsley's accent is totally weird. Last year was not a good one for his acting career. If you've seen "Iron Man 3," you'll agree with that statement.

As a caution for parents, "Ender's Game" does tackle some heavy topics, such as bullying and genocide, which may be difficult for some younger viewers. Additionally, many of these students in the film are, for a lack of better words, terribly mean to each other. They often resort to violence to resolve their problems, which is not likely something many parents will want their children watching.

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The Verdict:

The goal of any book-to-film adaptation should often be two-fold: 1) to make viewers want to go back and read the book and 2) to get viewers excited for potential sequels. On that basis, "Ender's Game" is a success, but a few more bonus features and a few more polished actors could have put it over the top. Though it's not perfect, it's puts on a good show and leaves audiences hanging just enough to keep them wanting more.

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Similar movies: "Star Trek: Into Darkness" (2013), "The Hunger Games" (2012), "Independence Day" (1996)

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DVD bonus features:

- Audio in English, Spanish

- Subtitles in English, Spanish

- Optional audio commentary with director Gavin Hood

- Optional audio commentary with producers Gigi Pritzker and Roberto Orci

- Six deleted/extended scenes

- Two theatrical trailers

- Several theatrical trailers for other Lionsgate films

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Directed by: Gavin Hood

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Running time: 114 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "some violence, sci-fi action, and thematic material," including bullying, a scene involving vomit (shown for laughs in a no-gravity environment), several references to male anatomy, and violence by children against children throughout with some instances of encouraged gunplay.

Costars Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Nonso Anozie, Aramis Knight

DVD release date: February 11, 2014

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