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REVIEW: Ender’s Game is a Fun, Exhilarating Yet Imperfect Adventure

Posted on November 1, 2013 by

3.5 games of anti-gravity laser tag out of five. It’s like The Hunger Games meets Elysium.  

Based on  Orson Scott Card’s novel of the same name, Ender’s Game takes place in a future where kids are trained for space battle just in case the ant-like alien race known as the Formics decide to attack Earth again.

A thrilling sci-fi adventure film, the Gavin Hood-directed film is a story of “us vs. them” and examines themes of discrimination, morality and the consequences of resorting to violence.

Playing the title character of Ender Wiggin is Asa Butterfield, a skinny yet talented boy who isn’t afraid to fight back against classmates who bully him at school. Constantly watched and tested by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis), they choose him as “The One” who could end all wars between those who threaten the human race.

Casting wise, director Hood is right on the money with Butterfield…

Ender eventually leaves Earth to go to Battle School, a place where his older brother Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) and sensitive sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) failed to make.   Joining an elite club that only a select few get chosen, Ender’s intelligence and strategic thinking soon helps him advance through his training, which includes zero gravity exercises and drills that looks like a really awesome game of laser tag set in space.

But it’s not all fun and games at Battle School.  Ender’s brilliance and stubborn nature singles him out from his peers.   Among them is the small and extremely unlikable Bonzo (Hannah Montana’s Moises Arias), who tries to exclude Ender during games in fear that he’ll ruin his team’s winning streak.

Enders Game Review 1

Courtesy of eOne Films

Though with Ender’s wit and independence, he eventually finds support in a quirky group of kids who includes  his best friend Bean (Aramis Knight), the smart Alai (Suraj Partha) and Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), who offers her talents to teach Ender some new skills.

But as Ender is constantly manipulated by Graff, the results of the young boy’s training ends up being more harmful than expected. Caught between the high expectations of his superiors and his own morals, he soon realizes that going to war might not be the right answer after all.

Clocking in at 114 minutes, Ender’s Game is not only exciting to watch, it’s a treat for the eyes.  With neatly-edited sequences taking place in the futuristic-looking, anti-gravity Battle Room where pupils go for training, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. And despite the fact that the film is set at a time of danger, even the war scenes of explosions and swarming alien ships  are absolutely stunning.

Casting wise, director Hood is right on the money with Butterfield, who has seemed to mature from his days in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning Hugo. Surely his performance can be partly owed to his enchanting blue eyes, which easily makes the viewer hold his/her attention on him at all times.  In addition, seeing this group of youngins is certainly a breath of fresh air, with the casting department making the conscious decision to cast a diverse selection of male and female actors of different ethnicities. On the other hand, I was not so sure about Ben Kingsley, who seemed a bit too over-the-top for my liking as the tough and intense war legend Mazer Rackham, who later serves as Ender’s mentor.

Enders Game Review

Courtesy of eOne Films

But while gorgeous and exhilarating, this ambitious film is definitely not perfect.  Plot-wise, it feels rushed and the scenes that follow  the climatic final battle seemed rather pointless and extremely unexciting.  In other words, the ending could have been WAY better.

To be fair though, I haven’t actually read the original novel written by Card, which was published in 1985.  While I’m sure those who are fans of the book may have much more to say about the film’s plot discrepancies, Ender’s Game could definitely fare well for kids with its lack of real violence and awesome futuristic costumes and props.

But as for wanting to see a space film, I believe it’s an unfortunate time for it to release during the fall.  With Alfonso Cuaron’s groundbreaking space-thriller Gravity also playing in theatres, Enders’ Game just can’t compete.

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