Ender’s Game

Director: Gavin Hood

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Moises Arias

Rating: PG-13 (some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material)

Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.

 

Ender’s Game

By Cole Schneider

There’s quite a lot to like about about the new movie adaptation of Ender’s Game directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). I’ve never read the novel, but the story and the subversive ethic that it brings with it is a welcome addition to recent child and teen movies. Unfortunately, there is not a single element of filmmaking in which it shines. The acting is atrocious, the pacing is wild, the special effects aren’t special, most of the characters are one-dimentional, and the tone is confused. It’s not terrible but it’s clearly below par, which is frustrating considering the potential the film had.

The conflict between Ender, played by Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Colonel Graff played by Harrison Ford (Star Wars, Blade Runner, Indiana Jones) serves as an example for the larger conflict between peaceful negotiation and the traditional kill-before-they-kill-us means of negotiation. The latter proves to be relentless even to the point of making a disastrously unethical decision and the fallout should have been powerful. Ultimately, however, the scene there falls emotionally flat because of the film’s subpar approach. It’s a shame because it clearly could have been a uniquely powerful moral voice for a generation. It’s not necessarily one to avoid, but it’s certainly not one to promote-unless you have a 12 year old son. Bring him!

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

 

Ender’s Game

By Matt Greene

“Ender’s Game” is like a smart, talented, good-looking kid going through his awkward phase. The design is outstanding and unique, but doesn’t stick to the ribs. The action scenes, specifically in the training room and the climactic battle scenes, are engrossing but forgettable. The moral complexity of the book is fulfilled and marginally successful, but lacks emotional depth. So despite a great story, the film fizzles.

“Ender’s Game” is a coming-of-age, loss-of-innocence sci-fi drama that follows a young boy whose been selected to be trained to fight off a dangerous alien race. Ender, played deftly by Butterfield, is a fascinating and well-drawn character, with kind eyes that thinly hide darkness underneath. However, outside of him and Davis, the casting here is weak. Ford is playing his usual bitter-old-man. The teens aren’t given authentic teen dialogue, leaving them to CW style melodrama.  The only bit of interaction that works is a decisive shouting match between Ford and Butterfield. Otherwise, they struggle in either execution or translation of the superb book.

Along with the cast and dialogue, there are exposition problems, movie clichés, and a general sense of cheesiness that pervades even the most serious scenes. But maybe most problematic is that the cold and emotionless handling of the story dulls what should be a fun and moving experience. Instead, we are left with what feels like a 2 hour long trailer. Underneath the imaginative story, strong themes and impressive spectacle, is a slight misfire of great source material.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

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