‘Ender’s Game’ Movie Review

by on November 8, 2013

in Entertainment, movie reviews

Does the Ender’s Game movie pay homage to the book we all remember, or does it stray like some movies tend to do?

Asa Butterfield in Ender's Game battleroom (review)

It turns out that Ender’s Game pays homage to the original book rather faithfully and leaves little out for the fan of the story as the movie keeps the focus on Ender Wiggin and his experience as he trains for the ultimate job.  Savior of humanity.

Ender’s Game is rated PG-13, runs 114 minutes (not counting the 10 to 20 minutes of previews before the movie) and stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steifeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley and Aramis Knight in the story of a world where children are sought after by the military for training, in the wake of an alien attack that decimated our population here on Earth.

Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, TV: Breakout Kings.) directed and wrote the screenplay adaptation.

Earth’s International Military seeks out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers in a role that will determine the future of Earth.

Asa Butterfield in Ender's Game (a review)

The primary story focuses on the experiences of Ender Wiggin (Butterfield) as he’s recruited and guided through the various stages of military school, then on to the battle simulators in the latter part of his training.

Each stage, we see him constantly challenged, and the nature he has to fight back and be a good tactician in his fights is a valuable asset his superiors see and appreciate.

All the while Col Graff (Ford) continues to lay his last hope on this young boy, the hope of humanity, on Ender and his innate skills.

The movie itself will stand the test of time when compared to the source material of the book.  As a stand-alone film, I’m pretty sure folks will enjoy it.

It has an odd tone (odd in a good way) where I equate the feeling I took away from the movie as two people having a calm and logical conversation on a high-speed train that’s headed for a cliff.  That’s the best I come up with in describing the movie.

For those of you who read the book and remember,

The movie touches on most aspects of the book.  Ender, his early days in school, his brother, sister, Graff recruiting him.  You’ll see that all looks familiar, including his treatment on board the transit shuttle to orbit (You know what I mean), and his indoctrination to his training team, and his subsequent assignment to the Salamander squad.  And other aspects of the final act.

But…

And this isn’t a bad “but,” but events in the book were chopped and shortened extensively.

There were apparently many things they needed to pull to meet the time constraints where Summit Entertainment wanted to keep this movie under two hours.  I think they could have left some things in the movie and still stayed near the two-hour mark.

The shuttle ride to orbit, time in training, the mind game, battle school, they were all shortened and yet given their due credit from the book.

Having read the book, you know how exhausted Ender truly was from all the prescribed and free-time training he did.  Having read the book, you may remember how battle school was the bulk of the fun action in the book, but we’re treated to just a few maneuvers, rather than experiencing just how Ender becomes popular and hated by his own innovative thinking.

The mind game was another aspect cut short in the movie.  It was here that we learned about some valuable skills of Wiggin, but we’re not privy to them in the movie.

But they apparently had to pare these events down to make room for the simulation runs in act three.

Butterfield grew on me as Ender Wiggin as the story progressed.  He had to prove himself in various situations and did so, despite his frame size.

Ford, I think, delivers more of the inner turmoil than I remember the book’s Graff had.  Maybe he was more of an accumulation of the entire military academy and their fears and hopes.  He did that well.

Steinfeld as Petra, Breslin as Valentine, Jimmy Pinchak as Peter Wiggin, Dink, Bonzo, Sgt Dap… were all characters on board the movie train.  Venues for moments to happen around.  And sometimes, inexplicably so.  For example, when Dap finally salutes Wiggin, there was so much more to it in the book, but it almost just came out of the blue in the movie.  We also had a more agreeable Bean than from what I remember in the book.

Kingsley brought the magic of Mazer Rackham to life.  Again, some aspects skipped, but for the most part, done well enough to make it a magical recall to see Rackham on the screen.

Overall, it was a fun movie and in my opinion, well worth the money dropped at the theater.  I’m also impressed that Summit didn’t get greedy and create a 3D version of the film, and still, took the box office by storm.  Now that’s how you do it and that’s how you get my attention on a production company.

On a scale of 1 to 10, the sci-fi aspect quantifies it into my popcorn film category, but on that scale, it’s an easy popcorn 8 out of 10.

Despite Card’s beliefs, I think the rest of the production staff should reap the rewards of a book to film story done well on film.

(
Word on the street is that they want Card to write another sequel book that can be made into a movie sequel, since his subsequent sequels went in a very slow-moving, thought-provoking direction with very little action.  Now that should be interesting, to have to write a new sequel to stick between books 1 and 2, which came out in 1985 and later.
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