“Ender’s Game” Review
Earth has seen better days. I mean, it was decades ago that an insect-like alien race known as the “Formic” tried to colonize Earth, resulting in tens of millions getting killed. The only way earth overcame was the sacrifice of the brilliant military strategist Mazer Rackham. Things are different now. Instead of stocking up on Raid, Colonel Graff (played by Harrison Ford) has an idea. That idea is to use children as military commanders. Graff needs, nay, Earth needs someone who is fearless, ruthless, cunning, and empathetic. Someone who is able to understand the enemy and crush them with video game-like precision. Graff thinks he may have found the One. That person is Neo, I mean, Andrew Ender Wiggin (played by Asa Butterfield).
Written in 1985 by author Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game has captured the hearts and minds of not only children, but of the marines who use it for their professional reading list. While Ender’s Game was not quite as widely popular as Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia, it is heavy with many moral inquiries into the art of war. The film attempts to make us wrestle with this idea of using children as commanders and how we win wars. In the film children are sent through boot camp, pushing them to their limits. All in an effort for the greater good, the greater good being the protection of earth.
The film itself, written and directed by Gavin Hood, is visually beautiful to look at. From the space battles to the simulated zero gravity training sessions, Ender’s Game is a pretty penny. While the direction the film takes isn’t always the most satisfying (for fans of the book and movie lovers like myself) Hood does an excellent job. For instance, some things feel rushed. Especially in the beginning when we’re just starting to get to know Ender when he is all of the sudden whisked off to space for boot camp. Understandable, seeing as it is a book adaptation. Speaking on that, I had my brother, Josh Cannon, write me up a few major changes that take place in the transition from the book to screen. I felt he was more qualified seeing as he read and loved the book and I have not even picked up a copy of it. Here’s what he had to say:
“One of the first changes I noticed was the name of the alien bugs that were fought in they movie. The name ‘Formics’ doesn’t appear until further down the line of books. Originally, in the books, the aliens are always called ‘buggers.’ Another change is the fact that the bullies in the beginning, and Bonzo from the space station, both die in the book. Graff never tells Ender that he killed both boys because he knew that it would tear Ender apart for his fear of turning into his brother. Lastly a minor change that’s understandable is that of the age of Ender Wiggin. In the book Ender is only six years old when he is admitted into the training program, and is only ten when he goes to Command School.”
So fans of the book might not be too happy with the changes, but there’s only so much you can do in two hours and still maintain everyone’s attention. From a film aspect, the story was awesome. The ebb and flow of action to ethical questions kept my interest the entire time. Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield had an electric chemistry together. For some, they were the most engaging part of the film. The supporting cast, including Oscar nominee Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley, did a wonderful job.
Despite the intolerant GLAAD trying to start a “boycott” against the film for Orson Scott Cards “anti-gay” and “homophobic” views, the film has garnered over $41 million. A failed “boycott” if I ever saw one. All things aside, Ender’s Game stands as a quality science fiction film and series; now that I think about it, dystopian science fiction universes are becoming a popular thing. Look at The Hunger Games and how they use children to kill one another. Is this a reflection on society itself? Do our children live in a darker world and do they need films to reflect that? Let me know in the comments below.
All in all, Ender’s Game is a film that both probes the mind for wartime ethics and thoroughly entertains its audience. It will leave you thinking long after the haunting final twist. I’ll close this review with the film’s opening quote that makes you think even before the first images are displayed: “In the moment when I know my enemy well enough to destroy him, in that moment I think I also love him.”
Ender’s Game is rated PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis and Hailee Steinfeld
Director: Gavin Hood
Run Time: 114 min.