Movie Review: "Ender's Game" Is A Sci-Fi Classic Brought To Life

enders Game 2Ender Wiggin — played by the brilliant Asa Butterfield (Hugo) — might just be a 12-year old boy, but he is also Earth’s only chance of surviving an all-out alien invasion. “Ender’s Game” is the long awaited big-screen adaptation of the timeless Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel by Orson Scott Card. It is brought to life with stunning clarity in Gavin Hood’s (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) latest directorial outing. In the realm of books turned movies, Wood — who also wrote the screenplay — proves that Hollywood can still adapt something the right way. 

The film tells the story of a not-so-distant future where the people of Earth have spent years readying themselves after surviving a massive attack by insect-like aliens called Formics. Instead of nurturing children in the traditional sense, with love and support, each new generation is trained to become intergalactic warriors where the planet’s best and brightest are selected to attend Battle School.

enders 4Ender Wiggen (Butterfield) is one of these special children. In fact, he is exceptional even among his extraordinary classmates — something the school’s commander Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) reiterates to the audience plenty of times. An outsider at first, Ender must use his intimate understanding of human nature to gradually build a coalition of followers among his peers. As the child progresses through the ranks, he readies himself to become Earth’s final hope of survival. With so much weight on his shoulders, the boy struggles to cope with the subtle difference between war and peace, good and evil, and just how dangerous the Formic invasion really is.

After witnessing the spectacle that was last month’s “Gravity,” all space-movies will absolutely need to change the way they represent zero gravity. While “Ender’s Game” might not look as realistic as the Sandra Bulluck special effects masterpiece, the film nonetheless has plenty of sci-fi wonderment that will definitely dazzle theater goers. The myriad battle school training ground exercises, where students engage in high-flying, expertly choreographed war games, are utterly magnificent. So too are the many flight simulators Ender is pitted against once graduating to Command School. Visual effects supervisor Matthew E. Butler is able to bring to cinematic life training activities that Card’s book describes primarily as taking place on large computer screens. 

Enders Game 1At 16-years old, London born actor Asa Butterfield will surely become a star — and a teen idol — with this film. Ender Wiggin might not be the biggest or strongest kid in the universe, but he is definitely the smartest. This internal trait is brought to light through Butterfield’s ability to make every choice Ender chooses appear to be calm and collected. Even during battle, Ender analyzes the odds of every decision he makes. In order to do so, the boy needs to keep a level head. Butterfield achieves this level of composure, but also hits the mark when emotion is called for.

Butterfield shares the screen with plenty of talented actors including: Academy Award nominee Harrison Ford (Witness), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Viola Davis (The Help), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), and Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi). Kingsley, as the brilliant general Mazer Rackham, is arguably the most dynamic talent on display, but each gifted performer manages to elevate Hood’s script in some small way.

To craft an excellent adaption, it is important to extract only the best details of a novel, yet maintain the author’s integrity and voice. Hood’s unobstructed take on “Ender’s Game” is a perfect example of this process done right. The writer-director turns a lasting children’s sci-fi classic into a cinematic tour-de-force. Diehard fans will recognize plenty of dialogue extracted straight out of the text, but newcomers to the world of Ender Wiggin will no doubt easily fall in love with his epic story as well. Expect not only teens, but also older fans, to flock to theaters to see this one over the weekend.  

By David Morris

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