Jul 7, 2014

[Movies] Ender's Game (2013)

Beyond all the controversy around the original author Orson Scott Card, there was a lot of buzz around the movie adaptation of Ender's Game. It's a rather popular book among both science fiction fans and those who just appreciate a good coming-of-age story.

Admittedly I had rather delayed my watching of the movie because of my opposition to the views of the author on other matters (particularly LGBT rights). But I knew that I was inevitably going to see it, at least in order to write a proper review. After all, we live in a world where I've written movie reviews for the likes of After Earth, so I should at least watch this once, right? It's only fair.

Admittedly, there was a part of me that hoped that this movie would be really good. I mean seriously, the book pretty much shaped a generation of readers with its rather harsh view of a future world and how a child commander can be raised under rather severe conditions. And yet the movie just ended up being rather...wrong. And thus not only did it first have to deal with all that controversy, in the end a lot of critics merely dismissed it as it being a poor adaptation.

Synopsis: Ender's Game is a 2013 science fiction movie movie written and directed by Gavin Hood. As mentioned before, the movie had been based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card.

50 years before the events in the movie, an alien race known as the Formics attack Earth. Despite millions of deaths, the invasion is stopped by one Mazer Rackham who had rammed his ship directly into the enemy command ship. This one event changes humanity and now they have reorganized themselves to prepare for future invasions that may possibly take place. Thus the best and the brightest among the different students around the world are eventually drafted into the Battle School where they train to possibly lead the future armies of Earth.

The center of our story is one Andrew "Ender" Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), who manages to attract the attention and interest of Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford), the man responsible for the Battle School. And after surmounting certain challenges on Earth, he finally gets selected for Battle School and is set to the satellite facility. There their training begins as they are subjected to seemingly endless of testing of both their mental and physical abilities. The culmination of all training tends to boil down to the matches in the Battle Room, a large sphere that simulates zero gravity conditions where opposing teams play a more complex game of capture the flag.

The movie does follow the original plot of the book well enough. It pretty much covers most of the key points of the original story. So for those of you who read the book, things generally unfold as expected. And while they didn't too much in terms of new content, they did have to skip over some bits that may or may not have affected the overall narrative, depending on what you liked most about the original story.

From my perspective, a lot of the complexities of Ender's personality as based on his relationships with his sister Val (Abigail Breslin) and his brother Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) were lost in the parts of his life that they chose to showcase. And why they still tried to present some scenes to establish what these relationships were like, they weren't enough to really explain what each represented in his life and why their involvement later in the movie mattered so much or at least had the impact that they did. And for those of us who read the books, we know how crazy things got in that regard. Without that development, the movie felt a little nonsensical or at least Ender's reactions seemed a little out of scale.

The movie also fell into the trap of not being sure how to depict stocism without ending up with a rather drap, deadpan performance. And while Butterfield does appear to be a decently talented young actor, the direction given to him had him on the much colder side of the acting spectrum. To be fair, the goal was to depict Ender as a rather cold-hearted killer by the end of the movie, and I'm not sure how that ultimately came across.

At the end of the day, Ender's Game was a decent enough movie, but one that didn't quite make the same impact as the book had. It wasn't quite sure if it wanted to be more of a classic Hollywood science fiction special effects blockbuster or if it wanted to be an intelligent coming of age tale. In the end it didn't really accomplish either very well, and so I can only rate the movie as 2.5 disturbing images in Ender's computer game out of a possible 5.

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