Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ender's Game

Plot: Tweens are recruited into the military by Col. Graff (Harrison Ford)  to battle an alien invasion because of tween's superior strategic skills, and Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is one of these. Ender is bullied by all the other cadets, but he keeps getting promoted because he is the best. Along the way, he becomes platonic friends with Petra (Haliee Steinfeld.) Soon he finds himself in deep space getting ready to battle real alien ant-people.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Ender's Game isn't that enjoyable because  it is too much like a Power Rangers episode -- too campy to be cool and not campy enough to be funny. This is especially true early in the movie, for example, when the tough guy sergeant is yelling at a co-ed group of cadets in their underware by their bunks. While later parts of the movie are more grown-up, this part looked like after-school TV.

A second gap is the Asa Butterfeld's Ender isn't that sympathetic. While the lines are delivered well enough, he was like a cerebral superhero -- too distant from real world experiences to evoke emotion. When he threatens to quit, it feels like an intellectual power game; part of the mental "chess game" he is playing with Ford's Col. Graff. It doesn't feel like he needs to be with his sister as he claims.

Harrison Ford provides some good dialog and facial acting, but it is in service a bullying plot line that is predictable.

Speaking of bullying: Ender usually he beats up the bully using superior tactics, but the point is to use violence to fix violence. This aspect of the message makes the story feel much older -- like WWII era Sci-Fi stories. I was surprised that the novel was written as late as 1992, because Star Trek Next Generation (from the same period) was far more progressive. Maybe author's Orson Scott Card's conservative views extend beyond his views on homosexuality.

The special effects are great. There are good action scenes in the weightless sports-game that seems to be a cross between Quidditch and football. These are probably the best scenes in the movie, but they are less interesting and suspenseful than Quidditch in Harry Potter.

I liked the ethical dilemma posed by the end of the movie. This began to redeem the movie, but it was pretty campy. I am glad they felt bad about what they did after it was all done.

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis

Directed and screenplay by: Gavin Hood

Based on the book by: Orson Scott Card (link to Amazon)

Rating: 1.5 stars:  Not so great. Not so fun. Predictable. 

More: I love the ink on Ben Kingsley. Even though he looks good, he had an empty character and was wasted in this film. 

Even more: I read the book about four years ago, but I didn't like the book enough to read any of the sequels. Going into the movie I did not remember most of the plot.