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Ender’s Game

November 1, 2013

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  1. Asa Butterfield stars as the eponymous Ender, and does a fine enough job in the role. He doesn’t quite do enough to sell the tortured soul aspect of the character, but there’s no point where you feel like he’s not filling the shoes. Hailee Steinfeld, who burst onto the scene with her role in True Grit, is the brightest child star in the picture — not hard, granted, since most of them aren’t all that great (they’re just kids, I know). There’s a sweetness to her relationship with Ender that gives the movie what heart it has. She’s a talented young lady, able to convey a lot with a little, and it’s going to be interesting to see where her career goes as she matures into adulthood. And at least right now she has none of that Dakota Fanning overexposed Children of the Damned creepiness.
  2. This is Harrison’s Ford’s movie just as much as it is Ender’s, and he’s in it from start to finish as Colonel Graff, the man charged with identifying and training the child who’ll lead mankind to victory. Ford seemed to be shaken out of his occasional somnolence for this role, so that was nice, and bodes well for his inevitable return to Han Solo’s vest. (It’s impossible to look at him these days and not wonder how that’s all going to work out.) Ben Kingsley (fresh off his infuriating turn in Iron Man 3) appears as Mike Tyson’s tattoos Mazer Rackham, the man who beat the Formic invaders the first time, and who now guides Ender in the last stage of his training. He’s okay. All the adults here do decent work.
  3. If you come into this looking for a page-to-screen translation of the book, you’ll be disappointed. For instance: Ender interacts with his brother and sister for all of thirty seconds. They’re little better than Tom Bombadils. Look elsewhere if you want to find mention of Hegemons.
  4. The move feels half-baked at times. A world where children are thrown together in a military environment, with war constantly on their minds — well, it needs to be more Lord of the Flies than this movie is. It’s a bit too sanitized. It needs more balls, more edge. It’s a bit too clean, like it’s been dosed with lithium or something.
  5. The zero-g games are quite well-done. I watched the movie on an IMAX screen and actually found myself getting queasy a couple of times as the camera spun and the characters whirled. That never happens to me during movies, so maybe the filmmakers were doing something right.
  6. Video game graphics apparently won’t improve in the years between now and the time period of the film. Also, cars will still travel on roads, so Avery Brooks will still be pissed.
  7. The great “surprise” of the book is modified but kept in the film, which is good, since that’s the story’s most potent angle. Neither Ender or any of the children under his command realize that their final simulation is real, that they’re actually commanding Earth’s forces in a gigantic end-all battle around the Formics’ homeworld. It’s a quite powerful sequence, made even more so if you know what’s coming — that a young genius is essentially being tricked into genocide (or xenocide, as it were). It has the potential to be so beautifully sad, and for a moment it is. But then-
  8. Yes, the ending is sort of from the book, but it’s condensed, which makes it doubly maddening. The final battle is guided not from an asteroid but an old Formic colony, and this change was apparently made just so that Ender could quickly and easily walk out of the command center and find a Formic queen and an unhatched queen egg about 200 yards away from where humans had been set up for a good long while. It feels so tacked on and hacky, it completely deflates the emotional crescendo of moments before. You’ll find more cerebral material on any random Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Ending the movie without the ray of hope might have been more nihilistic and less faithful to the original story’s architecture, but it might have made for a more potent theater experience. (So says the layman.)

There’s a lot of good in Ender’s Game, but apart from the action sequences there’s not a ton to recommend it. It’s not what it could have been, which is too bad. That said, after being bored for stretches I was all set to give it a decent three-star rating after the pulse-pounding final battle. But alas, the ending was way too rushed and heavy-handed. So it gets two and a half Harrison Ford chin scars out of five:

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One Comment leave one →
  1. ultradude13 permalink
    November 1, 2013 10:55 am

    Reblogged this on johnsonreginald3 and commented:
    Ender’s Game

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