Friday, November 22, 2013

Ender's Game Movie Review

For years people have told me to read Ender's Game. The book was released when I was two years old and the book has been on my "to read" list for ages, though was a pretty low priority. Well, along came the movie version of Ender's Game (2013). I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was pretty cool.
In the near future, a hostile alien race called the Formics have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford), Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) and the International Miliary are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite. Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult war games, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military's next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he is trained to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.
For being a product of the 1980's, Ender's Game has a whole lot of components that are popular trends among contemporary young adult literature. This movie is what would result if the Harry Potter series and the  Star Wars series had a baby. There's that "I'm a what?" moment where the seemingly unassuming and bullied kid ends up being special and superior to his peers. The character is whisked off to a school where they learn a super special power. There is the intelligent token female friend character, the goofy male friend character, and the bully at the new school. The character learns they are the chosen one, etc. They did this in Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and X-Men just to name a few off the top of my head. Except Ender's Game has the protagonist go to a sci-fi school to learn about commanding battleships by playing video games and zero-gravity laser tag, which makes it very different from the other stories.
We've got some pretty good actors in this movie. Harrison Ford is amazing and plays the tough mentor and military leader  very well. I love Asa Butterfield; he was amazing in Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. He's pretty good here, too. There are moments that he, like the other young child actors, are hard to take seriously. The kid actors are usually in their mid-teens, but many look younger than twelve. When these kids try to look hardcore and serious, they just end up looking funny. I actually laughed out loud at how ridiculous these prepubescent kids looked when they tried to act like hardened tough military soldiers. But when Butterfield has a meltdown, he plays it well. When he is horrorstruck, he means it. All the actors who played major characters were exceptional. The few minor character kids were less skilled and were harder to take seriously.
The special effects are phenomenal. That space battle toward the end is really a sight to behold. You get a broad scope of the fight scenes and a feel for how everything flows. It was neat seeing how Ender was a strategist; he was thinking several steps ahead of everyone and while not physically superior, he managed to get the upper hand by thinking the situation through. The only part of the story that confused me is how playing zero-gravity laser tag is supposed to prepare the kids for commanding fleets of spaceships. It would have made more sense if they were being trained as zero-gravity foot soldiers, not for the command seat in a battleship.
I have no idea how the movie compares to the book, I still haven't read it. Offhand, I didn't feel inspired to run off and pick up a book after seeing the movie. I've heard lots of bad things about Orson Scott Card (the book's author), none of which I have bothered to verify. I've read other books by Card, and if Ender's Game is like his other works, it could probably be half as long and still get the whole story across. I understand that Card's stance against gay marriage has caused a lot of people to boycott the movie. To me this sounds exactly like the religious groups boycotting The Golden Compass movie back in 2007; a group of people doesn't like the opinion of the author, therefore the movie based on the book written by the person they don't like should be refused by all. Ender's Game is pretty good on its own. While The Golden Compass did have some anti-organized religion themes in it, Ender's Game makes no commentary about homosexuality, antisemitism, or any of the other views I've heard the author has. Think what you want about Orson Scott Card, but the movie isn't bad.
Ender's Game is a decent movie. The acting is good, the story isn't bad, the special effects are great, and the complex theme of children's natural compassion clashing with the adult-mandated need for decisive power-plays is interesting. Story gaps aside, the action sequences tend to take center stage. If I was eleven, I'd probably think this is the best movie I'd ever seen. It's a much better space opera than the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy was. Regardless of your views of Orson Scott Card, I think this is worth seeing. The movie didn't endear me enough to buy a copy, or read the book for that matter. It's a decent science fiction fantasy that will be a crowd pleaser.

What is your favorite movie adaptation of a book? Comment below and tell me why!

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