Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formecs, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.
Ender’s Game is an adaptation of the 1985 science fiction novel of the same name written by Orson Scott Card. The novel received various accolades and is broadly well regarded by critics, the film adaptation is helmed by director Gavin Hood in what is his first cinematic release since X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009. As well as directing, Hood also took on writing duties for the film producing the screenplay from the novel.
I’m pleased to say Hood has delivered a film which is a significant improvement over his previous works which I did not enjoy, Ender’s Game is built up on several interesting ideas explored in the film, some to a larger extent than others however overall it makes for a great post-film discussion.
The film opens with an engaging scene that grabs the audience’s attention, and from that point effectively reveals the larger context within which this story is taking place. For the purpose of the film, the majority of the book’s (for lack of a better description) sub-plots have been stripped away leaving a strong focus on Ender and his journey.
Along this journey Ender forms relationships with a number of other characters and these relationships are well handled by the script, capably linking into the films thematic ideas of the ethics of war, and whether the ends do or do not justify the means. The content within the film is generally thought provoking and dramatic, however it is managed in a way that is both subtle and interesting, and allows for the tone of the film to be consistent and resonate with the audience by resisting the temptation for brief comedic moments seeking to lighten the mood.
The production budget on the film is reported to be approximately $110 million and this has produced a great looking film. The sets look excellent, the costumes are slick and the visual effects while at times are used to a modest amount always look great.
Ender’s Game is a film more interested in ideas and concepts than action, given the premise of the film you’d be forgiven for expecting something a little more action orientated however while that is an important aspect of the story, it’s not showcased on screen. That being said as Ender is trained the film makes use of some great zero gravity sequences and set-pieces that look great, but the film contains some long stretches of slower paced scenes.
In terms of performances Asa Butterfield proves his worth time and time again. Between Hugo and Ender’s Game he’s really delivered some great work and here he captures and displays the emotional intelligence of Ender convincingly. This film marks Harrison Ford’s first return to space in decades and say what you will about his erratic performances over the last 10 – 15 years he’s nailed this role. Ford often acts opposite Viola Davis throughout the film with each presenting differing perspectives on events and this produces some great scenes. Unfortunately Hailee Steinfeld isn’t utilised more however, as she’s left with little material to work with.
Ender’s Game is a thought provoking film with more intelligence that most of the big budget releases and this is refreshing. Fans of the book are likely to find some compromises they’ll have to accept or otherwise be disappointed with, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a thrill to see Harrison Ford back in space.
I’m giving Ender’s Game 8 out of 10 stars, it’s released in cinemas from 5th December 2013.