Movie Review: Ender’s Game
Set somewhere in the distant future, an alien race attacked Earth and killed millions. Ender’s Game based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, takes place fifty years after the attack. The International Military trains children to fight the next war. They are trained from very young and for some it’s a huge family honor to make it through the training program. Countless hours of video game simulations, physical training and strategic places as well as the constant showing of the final battle in which the war was won mold the minds of children under the ever present watchful eye of the adults Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) who run the program.
Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) is the 3rd child in a future where there is a 2 child limit. His parents had to get permission to have him. When we meet Ender he’s still a student in the program and being watched closely. His sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) washed out because she was too empathetic. His brother Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) was declared a sociopath and removed from the program. After winning a video game against a bully Ender is called to get his module removed. Thinking he was removed from the program he’s saddened but on the way back the bully and his gang corner him and attempt to beat him up. Ender wins the fight and beats the kid pretty soundly, well beyond what should be expected. When questioned by Colonel Graff, his response is he wanted to win all future battles and get the bully to never try it again. That mentality gets him promoted to the next level. As Ender progresses through training he goes from an outsider, always trying to make friends to rapidly becoming a leader. He knows he’s the smartest one in the room but like any teen he wasn’t to be liked. The friendships he makes are the people he ends up in his unit for the battles and the final test.
To say Ender’s Game is a war propaganda a film is putting it lightly. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how much of a difference it is. The ethical dilemma of sending children to fight a war is brought up and debated by Major Anderson (Viola Davis) several times over the course of the film. The tone shifts from who’s the aggressor to who’s the real enemy as the film progresses depending on who’s point of view & how things are seen. Colonel Graff has a greater good mentality above all costs, he’s the puppetmaster trying to push Ender in the right places to make him a great Commander. Ender’s got the best parts of his siblings, Peter’s killer instincts and Valentine’s understanding. From what I’ve been told by those who have read the book this is a more layered Ender. He’s more aware of what he’s doing and why, He never acts without planning but he’s put in situations beyond his control often as a lab experiment without all the facts because they don’t want him to react a certain way. Ben Kingsley is also in this as Mazer Rackham who doesn’t show up till 90 minutes into the film.
I got to see this in IMAX and was not impressed with the format. For the record this was my first time in this particular IMAX theater, its smaller than the others but i had a good seat that was slightly to the left. For all the CGI, I did not feel watching on the big screen brought anything to the table. The view of space in Gravity which i did not see in IMAX was crisper and a much better choice. Even the battle scenes of Ender’s Game didn’t feel enhanced by viewing on IMAX.
I still recommend watching Ender’s Game just not in IMAX. While I was completely off-put by all the closeups with the alien towards the end – sorry i really hate bugs with a passion- i still enjoyed the film as someone who’s never read the book. I knew what it was supposed to make me feel all kinds of thought provoking ideas about war but you could tell where they were going with this early on. Its not going to change minds but it is entertaining. I think they wanted to be more heavy handed with the story but in the end its still a good Sci-Fi flick
My Rating: Matinee
Worth the IMAX upcharge: No
Director: Gavin Hood
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: November 1, 2013
Run time: 114 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13