Review: Ender's Game
Ender's Game continues the long line of novels turned into film. Ender's Game was a part of a large series written by Orson Scott Card all the way back in the 1980's and he is still to this day writing for it. That being said, it makes perfect sense that a film would be made on the story. However, after looking into the book series a bit, it seems more likely that they made this movie to be a singular entry with no real intent to make a sequel. That in itself is refreshing to say considering how many sequels there are nowadays. As for the novel, you have plenty of thought provoking plot points that could easily make a very compelling sci-fi drama film and yet this film seems to fall in between a good film and what could have been a great film.
The plot follows Ender Wiggins who is enlisted in a training facility designed to test children to see if they could possibly become great warriors in an upcoming battle with an alien species who once brutally attacked Earth fifty years ago. This film obviously takes place in the future, but Ender shows to Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) that he has both the ability to show compassion but also violence. Two traits that are vital when being a leader. Ender has a philosophy that when in a battle he sees the best course of action is to always make it a decisive victory, that way your enemy will never come after you again. With this knowledge, Graff believes Ender is some sort of messiah who is born to be a leader and can lead humanity to defeat this alien species that no one seems to understand. Ender goes through more training as he is at first accumulated to his new environment, then battle school and then finally, command school. All of this leads up to him getting to command school where he is run through simulations of war against the alien species. Others within the fleet question Graff as to whether or not Ender is indeed worthy of being the leader considering how he has his own set of flaws. Even with his flaws, his mind is unparalleled and Graff believes that he is indeed the only one that can lead them.
Usually in reviews I would talk more in detail about the plot, but that will be different this time as the plot is basic enough without the need to go into it further. This film had a lot of potential and due to some major pacing issues it faltered. That being said it is still an entertaining film, but there is a difference between an entertaining film and a great film. Constantly Ender is met with problems as he goes through each separate school but still he gets through them with very little difficultly. Yes I know he is a "messiah" of sorts but it takes away any kind of dramatic weight when he is faced with this problems and is rushed into the next scene, or in this case, the next action set piece. That itself is the problem with entertaining films, and it falls on the director in most cases. Often enough they do not allow their characters to reflect on the decisions they have made and instead of having these moments to develop the characters they trade that for a bigger action sequence. As for the plot, it is good enough albeit it should have had more time to develop the characters and let them grow but also it is surprising how little the alien species was mentioned. All we know is that they randomly attacked Earth for our water. That is all we know about them throughout the entire film. For a villain, you would expect a little more but the true villain is actually Colonel Graff. His methods of training these children for war clearly takes a dangerous toll on them and he does not care about the cost as the preservation of life outweighs anything else. This of course brings up a morality point of what is right and wrong when faced with imminent death.
Asa Butterfield does a terrific job in the role of Ender seamlessly transitioning between his compassionate side and his side of violence. He commands the role perfectly and has tremendous on screen chemistry with his co-star Harrison Ford. Ford is very much in a mentor role and excels in it but in his quieter scenes he falls about short. Ben Kingsley also does a good job in his role, despite having very little screen time. The one person that really came a little short on his end of the bargain would be that of Gavin Hood, the director. As I stated before, it seems that he and the script had more of a desire to quickly run through the story from set piece to set piece than rather take the time to adequately develop these characters and let them reflect on the larger then life stakes that they are put through. Yet, despite this, it is still an entertaining film but certainly could have been so much more.