Film Review – Ender’s Game
Millions of people were killed in the first invasion of Earth by the insect-like Formics, and the people of earth have spent the last 50 years preparing for the next invasion by training the best and brightest children as high-tech soldiers to fight the next battle. Ender’s Game, the motion picture based on the renowned Hugo and Nebula award winning Orson Scott Card novel published in 1985, tells the story of the most gifted and brilliant of these children, Ender Williams, who is selected for Battle School where the most elite prospects train and compete on a space station to lead the entire fleet in battle against the Formics.
It’s clear the filmmakers thought (rightfully so), that for a film adaptation they needed to reduce the complexity, focus the story, and consolidate and simplify characters. Unfortunately, the result is a film that is wholly unsubstantial, mechanical, and oblivious to its own superficiality. The movie struggles so heavily under the weight of its own massive expectations that it sinks like a cinderblock in a swimming pool.
The film is so poorly constructed that it fails to convey plausibility at virtually any point in the film, except the very beginning scenes which take place on earth. The “eureka” moments that allegedly display Ender’s leadership prodigy are banal. The lengthy training scenes where Ender supposedly displays his strategic “brilliance” are instead silly and insipid…a bunch of teenagers floating languidly around in zero gravity playing laser tag. The space station, which is supposed to be the training hub for the most critical soldiers in intergalactic warfare, is inexplicably vacant. I mean, this is intergalactic war for heaven’s sake…I would have thought there would be….more people around? The special effects are average, and not really much better than Battlestar Galactica (the FX television series), and the climax of the film is wholly and completely anticlimactic.
Despite having a surprisingly good cast which includes Viola Davis (The Help), Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas), and Ben Kingsley (with the worst Maori accent ever attempted on film), Ender’s Game just doesn’t get any traction at all as it plods clumsily along from scene to scene. Though in some cases the acting is good, in others the casting seems a bit off and any decent performances are lost behind the character’s bizarre overreactions to non-events, which I place the blame squarely on screenwriting and direction, both handled by Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, X-men Origins:Wolverine). Despite a well-respected team of producers, talented actors and directors, and a story so rich with inspiration and ideas that it seems astounding things went so horribly wrong. Unfortunately they did, and Ender’s Game is a dull, yawn-inducing, career-ending flop.