Ender’s Game

Directed by: Gavin Hood

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

In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him." – A.E. Wiggin

Ender’s Game is the latest science fiction book series to be converted into a movie.  Written by Orson Scott Card, the book was first published in the 1980s.  For many years, filmmakers shied away from turning the novel into a film. I suspect the popularity of the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games may have finally turned the tide.  Similar to the aforementioned films, Ender’s Game focuses on talented young people who are placed in very adult situations and forced to save the world. Ender’s Game is far from perfect, but it is entertaining and could be the beginning of a solid science fiction franchise.

In the film, Earth is attacked by an alien race known as Formics and millions of people are killed before humans defeat the aliens.  The government realizes that they must prepare for another invasion, and they turn to master strategists: children.  Children have grown up playing video games, and as a result, they are superior to adults in terms of cold, calculated, creative battle strategy. 

Andrew Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a teenager being trained at a boot camp for talented children.  They are trained on battle tactics, fighting, complex laser tag games, and the alien Formics.  Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) monitors Ender’s progress and he believes that Ender can lead Earth to victory in the Formic Wars.  Ender is not only a master strategist, but he has the perfect balance between empathy and violent ruthlessness that will enable him to defeat the enemy.  Over the objections of mental health professional Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis), Colonel Graff puts Ender through a series of tests to expedite his battle readiness.  In the midst of this extreme training, Ender must simultaneously deal with familial issues, as well as normal teenage issues like bullies, girls and fitting in.

Ender’s Game is a solid start for a new science fiction franchise.  The plot is intriguing and there are plenty of action sequences and tense scenes that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Moreover, the juxtaposition of children with massive military campaigns raises interesting philosophical questions.  On the one hand, training children for warfare and robbing them of their childhoods is abhorrent.  However, if children are the ones most capable of defeating an enemy that could annihilate humans, then should the government use any means necessary to defend the planet? 

In addition, the cast is stellar.  Asa Butterfield is perfect for the lead role.  His wide-eyed boyish looks coupled with his barely contained anger make his Ender Wiggin an intriguing hero.  Moreover, the young supporting cast also delivers strong, and at times endearing performances.  Veterans Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis are also solid, but the movie really stands on the performance of its younger cast.

Ender’s Game is not without its flaws.  The film drags in some portions, particularly as Ender is promoted from level to level within the battle school.  While the intricate layers of Ender’s battle training may have worked in a novel, on film it becomes pretty cumbersome.  At the same time, I do not think the filmmakers took the time to thoroughly explain the connection between the video game battles and reality.  The battle technology is still a mystery to me and I left the theater pondering the logistics of the final battle sequence.  Perhaps it is clear in the book, but since I have not read the series, it was simply confusing.

All in all, Ender’s Game was a success and it left me wanting to read the novel series.  Ender’s Game earns a 0.06% rating.  Have a Corona with this one.