Film & TV

Review – Ender’s Game

I have not read the 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card that inspired this much anticipated screen adaptation. As such, my review centres on the film itself. On the whole, Ender’s Game had some entertaining moments, sadly these were overshadowed by an overwhelming sense of déja-vu.

In terms of plot, there is a glaring abundance of sci-fi tropes and clichés.  The protagonist Ender (Asa Butterfield) is a young, reckless space marine chosen to save humanity from annihilation by an alien race referred to as ‘Formics’. He is a maverick that fights and strategises his way up through the ranks, transforming a ragtag group of outcasts into a force to be reckoned with. Growing increasingly alienated, he finally faces the enemy to whom he’s grown to empathise with. Where has something like this been done before? Star Wars springs to mind.

Harrison Ford Ender's Game

 The characters could have been pulled straight out of ‘Writing a Heroic Saga For Dummies’. You have the disgruntled Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), the bully Bonzo Madrid (Moises Arias), the romantic interest Petra Arkanian (Hailee Steinfeld) and the stoic-yet-slightly-menacing mentor Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley). While these show potential, they are never fully fleshed out, largely due to the frantic pacing, as well as bland performances by all the young actors – with the exception of Butterfield.

Ender's Game 1

In fact, it seems as if director Gavin Hood has created a pastiche of elements borrowed from other films. The set design is reminiscent of J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek films. The combat suits look like those in Tron: Legacy. The holographic displays are reminiscent of Minority ReportEnder’s Game truly suffers from a lack of originality.

Themes concerning ethics and morality are suggested but never clearly defined.

These issues are compounded by the fact that the more cerebral aspects of the narrative are not fully explored. Themes concerning ethics and morality are suggested but never clearly defined. Whenever Ender is bullied, he uses violent self-defence before consulting his superiors. His sympathy towards the enemy at the end of the film also seems contrived. Is Card condoning impulsive and aggressive behaviour in pursuit of some greater good?

Ender's Game 3

The saving grace of Ender’s Game is its highly stylised and beautifully rendered CGI, primarily showcased in the zero gravity scenes and the exciting battles that occur towards the end of the film. The spaceships, weaponry and explosions allow the audience to temporarily ignore the more tedious aspects.

Hood’s sci-fi flick is generic and ultimately forgettable.

It is undeniable that Ender’s Game looks great and has some intense moments. It is a shame that the entire novel was translated into one film, as splitting it into two parts may have alleviated the numerous flaws. Though set to be a box-office hit, Hood’s sci-fi flick is generic and ultimately forgettable. It may be aimed mainly at an early teen audience, but I expected to be more enthralled.

Thomas Shipley

Star Rating 2


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2 Comments on this post.
  • Anonymous
    25 November 2013 at 05:23
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    One of the best movies I’ve ever seen

  • Don Quixote
    25 November 2013 at 17:40
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    I was in a similar position to the reviewer, having not read the book.

    I found this review particularly superficial (the least insightful) on this movie.

    Yes, the movie was high paced, and if you blinked, you missed something, such as the importance of Ender’s siblings. On the other hand, the violence was explained in detail .. And thankfully, the morality on violence was not rammed down our throats. It was used to reflect on that society instead. I really can’t stand a spoon feeding “this is what you must think” movie that this reviewer wanted.

    And calling it a StarWars or Star Trek copy? Couldn’t agree with the author less. This movie does have some religious parallels, but it is far more focussed on politics, violence, military protocol, etc. very different from what it was compared to.

    This is the first time I’ve said something like this – this reviewer may want to rethink their career, or maybe read the other reviews (which are mixed) for lessons on how to write a review. If you don’t understand a movie, don’t review it.

    Review score: 2/10

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