Ender’s Game is one of those science fiction novel adaptations that both fans of the book and novices can enjoy. I’d never heard of Orson Scott Card’s novel until this year, but its safe to say that his novel has a major following with several sequels that followed. The book was published in 1994 and now after watching the film, I can understand why it wasn’t filmable until nearly 20 years later.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but bright teenager is recruited by the International Military led by the stoic Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and the more sensible Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis). Ender is meticulously tested in battle school and is given tasks on how well he can lead other cadets.
Graff is positive he’s found the one to lead fellow soldiers into a battle against an alien species that poses a great threat to Earth. With the help of a slightly older cadet Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), training from war hero Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) and assurance from his older sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin), Ender turns from a cadet who was bullied into the leader of the entire space fleet.
This year we’ve seen gorgeous outer space cinematography from both Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and although those films may be a bit more thought-provoking, Ender’s Game is up there with beautiful visuals and special effects. The scenes where Ender and his fellow cadets are in the gravity simulator hub look amazing and so real.
If the film performs well at the box office, I’d say Summit Entertainment is in for another teen-targeted franchise they can bank on. At a budget of $110 million, the film looks like it could’ve been made at a John Carter budget of $250 million.
Asa Butterfield (2011’s Hugo) is marvelous as the title character. At 16-years-old and in nearly every passing minute of the 114-minute long film, Butterfield’s performance is captivating, emotional and layered. He especially has a powerful moment in the climatic scene of the film that creates a character arc even Harris Ford would be jealous of. I’m serious.
Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis all make an impression with the minimal screen time they are given. I’m sure that Colonel Graff probably had a much bigger role in the book, than he was given on screen here, but I would’ve liked more scenes of Graff and Ender going back and forth. It’s clear Ender possesses a maturity of a grown adult, so it would be intriguing to see him face-off with other adults, rather than kids his own age.
Director Gavin Hood’s (2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine) film drags a bit about ¾ of the way through and the first half seems more interesting then the second half, but if you aren’t familiar with the story, then you are in for a wild surprise in the climatic scene.
Ender’s Game is a compelling story that came to life beautifully on screen with breathtaking visuals and a show-stopping performance from Asa Butterfield.