Regardless of how you might feel about author Orson Scott Card’s comments about gay marriage, another possible reason you shouldn’t go see the film Ender’s Game, based on his classic novel, is because the film just isn’t that good.
Regardless of how you might feel about author Orson Scott Card’s comments about gay marriage, another possible reason you shouldn’t go see the film Ender’s Game, based on his classic novel, is because the film just isn’t that good. It’s a damn shame, too, because this novel is great subject matter for a film. And the cast is great, so too bad they mostly get wasted here. But then, what can one expect from the guy that directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
If you haven’t read the book, do so. It’s great. It’s been many years for me, but it’s worth reading again, which I may just do now. And there are a few books in the series, so perhaps I’ll read them all. I don’t see this being made into a franchise of films, unless this one takes in a ton of money.
In Ender’s Game, Earth is anticipating another attack from the Formics, hostile insectoid aliens, 50 years after their intitial attack almost destroyed humanity. In preparation for this new attack, the International Military has been recruiting the greatest minds of our youth because of their more agile minds and ability to learn more quickly. They seek a new military genius to win the war.
For the most part, this film adaptation of Ender’s Game plays like a flashy, stripped down version of the book, but alas, too stripped down. Sure some of the ideas are there, but they don’t really emphasize them enough. They could have pushed the envelope more here. You want to show how extreme and shocking the attitudes are about training kids to fight wars, to sacrifice soldiers in order to win at all costs, but often in this film when they begin to show that, then they soften those moments by watering them down with contridiction.
Ender Wiggin is chosen among the new recruits as the most likely to succeed. When Colonel Graff (Ford) singles Wiggin out amongst his group of cadets, he makes him a target and the rest of the group dislikes him. But almost immediately he ends up making allies of some of the others, negating the whole point of separating him. Graff wants to isolate him, make him less compasionate to others so that he won’t have any qualms about killing the Formics. Then the script has him making friends. This is about turning children into experts at warfare and how cold and horrible that is. The harsh impact of that is lost. It takes the power out of your message – out of the message of the book. Stop compromising and dumbing down literature for the film-going audience.
The acting here is all fine, though not remarkable. With such a great group of A-listers, such as Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, and Asa Butterfield, your material should befit their abilities, but it doesn’t. This is one of those rare occasions where perhaps a longer, more fleshed out script might have been better. Instead of being under two hours, perhaps a little over would have provided more room for exploring this subject matter.
Not to say there aren’t any good moments here, like when they let the character Ender (Asa Butterfield) explore things himself and don’t use the characters to just tell us what’s going on, but unfortunately there are too few of them. And the CG effects are mostly fine, but some are certainly not ground-breaking by any stretch of the imagination.
Ultimately Ender’s Game is just not the film the material deserves, which is too often the case with science fiction. Perhaps if they had let Duncan Jones direct and write this, then we may have had a chance at this being a really great adaptation. But we don’t always get what we want, right? Right. Thanks Hollywood! Sometimes they get it right, but too often we get this. Two and a half kittenhands.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, already half expected this result from this film.