Unlike most reviews you find on the interwebs, I am going to start off by saying that you should go see this movie. It’s absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, but there isn’t really a discernible reason why I wouldn’t other than I just don’t like absolutes. So I give it a 9.8 out of 10
Now lets see how we got here.
This is not an unbiased review (sorry I am not a Vulcan — the world is a giant ball of biasness – get used to it). Ender’s Game is one of my favorite novels ever written. It’s the only book I have been able to read multiple times. I almost named my son Ender…. What I am trying to say is that I am a fanboy of this particular story, but I will try to separate my fandom from this as much as humanly possible. I will also say that I am by no means a film scholar, so if you are expecting me to talk about the intricacies of the cinematography I am probably going to disappoint you.
Ender’s Game is based on the novel of the same name written by Orson Scott Card (who you may know as a giant homophobe, but don’t let his bigotry turn you away from this amazing story). It is set in the future after the Earth has been attacked by an alien ant-like race known as the Formics. Humanity was nearly destroyed in this invasion, and probably would have been if not for the heroics of Col. Mazer Rackham, who was able to destroy the mother ship of the invading fleet and drive the Formics back to their home world. Fifty years after this event humanity is searching for the next great military commander to lead their fleet, and put an end to the buggers once and for all.
This leads us to Andrew Wiggin, nicknamed Ender, who you will notice is the title character. Ender is recruited by an aging Han Solo, named Colonel Graff, to attend Battle School in order to determine if he is the second coming of Mazer. Ender is put through several physical and mental trials along the way, as they try to condition him to believe he can only rely on himself.
Overall, the screenplay stuck very close to the source material, which was a plus for me. The obvious changes that I noticed seemed to be borne out of necessity more than artistic license. The book, for instance, follows Ender from age 6 through age 14. This isn’t feasible in film. It would be jarring to use multiple actors, (and please, for the love of God, don’t do the CGI baby toddler thing from Twilight… that thing was terrifying).
Obviously, with any film based off of a novel, the filmmakers have to trim out unnecessary plot points so the movie doesn’t end up with a runtime similar to Roots. I believe they did a great job trimming the story without sacrificing key plot points. The pacing felt a bit rushed at times, but if you haven’t read the book you will probably not even notice.
Even if you have read the story, and you hated it, you should still go see this movie for the beautiful set pieces, and amazing special effects. I don’t remember ever thinking, “you know that CGI looks pretty realistic,” because there was never a moment when the CGI even crossed my mind (this excludes the video game he plays which is obviously supposed to be computer generated). The zero-gravity Battle School war games, and the Command School battle sequences were particularly impressive.
The actors all nail their parts too. Asa Butterfield does a wonderful job showing the emotional struggles Ender goes through as he is trained to become mankind’s savior. They tapped Harrison Ford to play the gruff space colonel, and he nails it. Gruff? Check. Believable as a tired old soldier? Welcome back to space, Mr. Solo. Ben Kingsley does what he does best, playing odd characters that are intense as hell. All of the kids nailed their roles as Ender’s army.
The only thing that was a little jarring to me was the guy playing Bonzo… he was like four feet tall. Bonzo is one of the main antagonist’s in the story. He is older, meaner, and on a major power trip. He hates Ender because Ender is smarter and naturally talented, but in this movie, when he gets in Ender’s face, Ender TOWERS over him. I guess they were trying to give him more of a Napoleon Complex (funny story about the “Napoleon Complex,” aka the little man syndrome, Napoleon was actually average height, not as tiny as the complex named after him would suggest). Bonzo being tiny is really my only complaint. He was fine actor, but come on, do some Lord of the Rings magic on him and make him a little taller.
Overall, I think this movie fired on all cylinders. The screenplay stayed true to the novel it was based on, which seems to be a rare trait currently. The set pieces were jaw dropping at times. The actors nailed their individual roles. If you haven’t read the book, and you are thinking, “This movie is really just for those nerds who enjoyed the novel,” I would tell you that despite being based on a novel, this film stands on its own two metaphorical feet. To be honest with you, this film might just be the best sci-fi movie I have ever seen. Unlike most sci-fi movies I have seen, Ender’s Game does not have any apparent weaknesses.
Amazing story about the morality of war with an anti-bullying message.
Top notch acting.
Astounding costume and set design (the world feels lived in).
Bonzo is a small guy and it’s a little jarring.
The author of the original novel is a bit of a bigot (but that’s not the movies fault).
Go see it, and then let me know what you thought about it.