REVIEW: “Ender’s Game”

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It would be easy to lump “Ender’s Game” in with the current trend of science-fiction films centered around young people. These movies seem to be popular now and modern Hollywood has shown it will milk popular trends dry. But while “Ender’s Game” has several elements that puts it in this category, it also does somethings that sets it apart. It is a movie with a thinly-veiled message, but it’s also a fun bit of science fiction that doesn’t always feel original but still works as a whole.

Asa Butterfield, who I loved as the wide-eyed title character in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”, plays a young prodigy named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. After months of observation, he is sent to an advanced battle school by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford). The school is the first step in preparing the kids for war with an alien species known as the Formics. 50 years earlier the Formics attacked Earth but were finally repelled by the heroic and sacrificial acts of a now iconic soldier named Mazer Rackham. The military believes another alien attack is inevitable so they plan to strike before the aliens do.

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The film follows Ender and a number of other kids through various stages of Battle School. You see apparently these video game savvy youth have acquired a better skill set for the video game-like combat of the future. As Ender advances he encounters an assortment of new kids, some of which are characters we’ve seen in movies a hundred times before. For example, there is an adolescent “Top Gun” rivalry that was just too corny to buy into. All of this is going on under the watchful eye of the cold, businesslike Colonel Graff and his counterpoint Major Anderson (Viola Davis) who is more interested in the children’s emotional well-being.

The story builds and builds towards the seemingly inevitable war to come. Ender develops a few close relationships with fellow cadets including an outgoing girl named Petra. She’s played by Hailee Steinfeld, one of my favorite young actresses in Hollywood. Ben Kingsley also pops up in the second half of the film with an interesting role and a face full of tattoos. The performances from all who I’ve mentioned are solid. I’m really impressed with Butterfield and Steinfeld, both of whom know how to handle themselves in front of the camera. Some of the other young actors, not so much.

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While I liked the story of “Ender’s Game” as a whole it does run into a wall about two-thirds of the way through. It begins to feel as if it is repeating itself (with slight advancements of the plot) at certain junctures. I eventually found myself ready to move past Ender’s training and get to the big finale. It certainly does come with some big special effects and a few rather disorienting twists that took a minute or two to soak in. Some interesting ramifications and personal conflicts follow which I thought was a neat way to end the story.

Maybe I shouldn’t say “end the story” because “Ender’s Game” is clearly set up with a franchise in mind. The final scene leaves no doubt about that. I would check out another chapter of this story although I’m not sure how compelling the new direction might be. As for this first installment, it is a fairly satisfying bit of science fiction that walks the tricky line of trying to appeal to youth and adults alike. For the most part it succeeds. It’s not a movie I would rush to see again, but it is a film I can appreciate.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

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12 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Ender’s Game”

  1. Good review Keith. This movie was quite off. Not just in its tone, but exactly who the hell it was for. Not to mention, that abrupt ending really sucked any joy out of this.

    • Obviously I enjoyed it a bit more than you. I thought it was a nice little setup for a series. Far from perfect and maybe not something that really pulled me in, but entertaining.

  2. I really enjoyed Ender’s Game, even though I wouldn’t call it a favorite. The performances were great, and I’d agree that the film sets itself apart from the genre as a whole, given that Hollywood likes to keep giving us more and more of the same types of films over and over again.

    Despite that, I appreciated Ender’s Game for what it was, especially given how unique it felt in the midst of so many similar-type films. Great review!

    • Thanks a lot. I had a lot of fun with it. It was unique which is good considering how many of these types of movies are out there. Like you, I wouldn’t call it a favorite. But it was entertaining.

  3. Cool review, Keith. This one didn’t do it for me. I thought it started repeating itself way earlier than the 2/3 mark. I also thought Butterfield was way too bland. And that finale was a total crock. Needless to say, EG2 is not high on my list of movies I’m waiting for.

    • Sorry to hear you didn’t care for it. But that’s the fun thing about movies. Quite honestly EG2 isn’t a movie that I’m going to focus on even though I did like this one better than you.

  4. This is about where my feelings settled for this one, pretty middle-of-the-road but there was lots of smile-inducing sci-fi fun to be had. I am not sure about how compelling the sequel(s) might be, either, as I actually can hardly recall the way this one went out. lol

    Good review man

  5. I never really got into the movie and thus thought everything felt very fabricated. I did like the surprise at the ending, but thought that was the moment the movie finally started to get really interesting. Don’t know if there will ever be a sequel, but I would be interested in that.

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