I Finally Saw Ender’s Game

10 Nov

Let’s get this out of the way. NO, seeing Ender’s Game will not give Orson Scott Card money, it’s official. My stupid opinion on why this shouldn’t influence any judgment of the movie itself is outlined here. Admittedly knowing that none of my money was going to OSC did make me feel better. This review starts out spoiler free then ends by bringing up some details that people who already saw the movie or read the book know. I’ll warn you when spoilers are coming.

The main character Ender, a boy named Andrew but everyone calls by his nickname Ender (The movie doesn’t make this obvious) is enrolled in a program to train children to become military leaders. A surprise alien invasion by the Formics 50 years ago has lead the military to try and prevent another attack at all cost. The creative, pliable, minds of children are crucial to its success and Ender is seen as the best candidate to defeat the Formics. If he can complete the strategic training in battle school while also surviving the harsh social landscape of adolescence.

Ender's Game Cast

Casting a movie like this is tricky, requiring many young actors to be convincing and authentic, which is not what you normally get with actors in this age group. The seamless embodiment of Ender is Asa Butterfield, he has a tough job, as Ender has to be confident, super-intelligent, and isolated but not be cocky, nerdy, or weak. His peers in battle school, highlighted by Hailee Steinfeld are all pretty convincing. But I think their characters were underused toward the end. The veteran cast of Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, and Harrison Ford is fool proof and they anchor the heavy points of the story.

The IMAX format is defiantly not wasted in this movie. Everything was very detailed, from little things like the dorms of the battle school having 3D printers in the background (because it’s the future) to the Formics’ sets and ships looking like they were constructed ever so delicately by resin secreting insects. The space battles are grandiose in scale involving hundreds of ships swarming around one another, with explosions! Because you got to have stuff blowing up, that’s just science. This movie’s zero-g battleroom sequences were highly anticipated but after seeing Gravity it is easy to spot the fake weightlessness when you first see it. Although as it progresses the zero-g is portrayed better in the film and you kind of get used to it, so it ends up looking pretty fun on the screen. The sound design is also great, I say this because I normally don’t especially notice good sound design, so the fact that I did deserves mentioning, together with the score this movie sounds tremendous.

I thought this movie delivered a better story than most YA movies and had enough sci-fi stuff to satiate sci-fi fans like myself. But it skipped some crucial points in the story, like what the rules were in battle school, or what made the Formic invasion 50 years ago so devastating. All they said was it “nearly destroyed us”, how so? The movie also missed the mark on a few emotional moments like toward the end when there’s supposed to be this big, shocking, heart-sinking reveal, instead the mood is flat and quickly moves on. The movie needed to take more time showing the characters reacting to and processing their feelings. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, it was surprisingly better than expected. I liked it a lot and think it is entertaining if you’re up for a sci-fi adventure flick.

Ender's Game

Here’s the massive spoiler part for people who already know the story. The movie tries to be very faithful to the book concerning what they left in, the first 30 minutes of the movie is exactly like the book. It is quick to get to battle school and stays there for most of the movie, that’s fine. But I think they could’ve reinforced that Ender’s fantasy game was being used as an attempt by the Formics to establish contact. Not be obvious with it but build it up just enough so that at the end you don’t need the flashback sequence with voiceovers to spell it out. I thought that after battle school the movie rushed toward the ending too fast. Harrison Ford kind of just said here’s a new M.D. weapon and an ansible link now let’s get you guys in the simulation. Doesn’t Ender (and the audience) need more explanation on what those are? The most fascinating parts of the book for me were learning about The Formics/Buggers, in fact they’re what got me to read 3 sequels and I never saw the word “Formic” appear in any of them. Nevertheless as Kingsley describes his victory he should’ve went into detail about what he learned of the Formic organizational structure, other than say “they’re like ants obeying their queen”. I loved the design of the Formic Queen at the end but they could have elaborated on the telepathic exchange between her and Ender. Use the voice of Valentine to represent the Queen like the video game did, turning the Queen into a character instead of just an image.

Summing up there is still a lot to enjoy about this movie and I know there will be various reactions to it, please feel free to share yours.

Carl Wells

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One Response to “I Finally Saw Ender’s Game”

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  1. Ender’s Game Movie Review | Super Book Worm - November 11, 2013

    […] I Finally Saw Ender’s Game (stupidopinionswrittenpoorly.wordpress.com) […]

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