Let the games begin

Award-winning book becomes decent sci-fi film

By Carlos Razo
A & E Editor

3/5 stars

The year is 2086, and Earth has been invaded by a violent alien race known as “The Formics.” As millions of lives are lost, an advanced military group called The International Fleet is formed. Their mission: to recruit the best and brightest young students from all over the world and train them in the art of war, waiting for the day Earth is invaded again.

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield, “Hugo”) is one of these many recruits chosen to potentially lead Earth’s army, as he is personally selected by Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford, who finally makes a return to science-fiction epics).  As Colonel Graff and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis, “The Help”) begin to push Ender and the recruits through vigorous training Enders-Game-Movie-2013-Wallpaper-“games,” Ender must prove his worth to his peers, his superiors, and to himself—hence the title, “Ender’s Game.”
At first, the zero-gravity training missions are nothing more than simulation, but Ender soon learns they could lead to more and begins questioning which side he should truly be fighting for.

The performances from the all-star cast are all solid, including  Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”), Sir Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi”), and Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”). Butterfield’s portrayal of the unlikely hero balances both angst and ambition quite well. Ender often challenges authority, but only when the rules contradict themselves or his own sound logic. His development from shy outcast into fierce military commander feels authentic, as he overcomes the numerous challenges that propel him forward. Ford’s portrayal of the stern, uncompromising Colonel is as powerful as you would expect; he demands respect and controls the screen.

Based on Orson Scott Card’s celebrated novel, director Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) gives us a bright, colorful post-apocalyptic adventure. The sequences involving the training missions are the most exciting parts of the film, with excellent anti-gravity effects and interesting insights into the way Ender’s strategic mind functions. The special effects are plentiful and visually stunning, but the style and substance of this movie does not feel fresh. The characters are routine, and Enders-Gameaside from a major twist ending, so is the storyline.  It is an entertaining film, but in an era of filmmaking where anything is possible, this vision of the future seems a bit underdeveloped.

The details of Ender’s home world are a bit scarce, and the audience is not given much information into how earth was affected by the alien invasion beyond the creation of The International Fleet itself. The film avoids confusing jargon that bogs down some science-fiction films (a common criticism of the film “John Carter”), but it would have been nice to see the post-invasion Earth a little more defined.

Beyond a few structural gripes, this film manages to be an acceptable popcorn flick that families with young adults can enjoy together. There are some positive messages about growth, respect, and knowing when to stand up to authority,   which make up for the less original material in the film. With some strong performances, great special effects, and an open-ended finale, Ender’s ending could be beginning of the next big science-fiction franchise.