An average sci-fi movie but not a great adaptation

I was fortunate enough to catch this on opening morning in Glasgow thanks to the U K. getting it a week before the U S, however, it wasn’t available in 3D which was a pity as I was particularly keen on putting it to good use after passing on Gravity to see Ender’s Game, in all its cinematic glory. But, we apparently can’t have everything. I’d also like to point out I have read all of Card’s novels about Wiggin’s exploits; several times, and now in a position to judge the movie fairly, however, this is rather a tricky one to be impartial about, given the amount that has been omitted from the story, and Ender’s difficult journey almost reduced to some log-pulling by Rocky Balboa.

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a young boy who has been watched by the military, via a device that monitors his every action, with an eye to recruiting him to the International Fleet. At school, Ender is forced to defend himself against a bigger and stronger student, and does so with relative ease. Because of this, Ender joins Battle School, under the watchful eye of Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford), and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis), where he excels at all put before him, and quickly rises up through the ranks, to eventually fight a final battle against Earth’s deadliest opponents, the Buggers. The Buggers invaded once before, but were eventually defeated, but they now have overwhelming numbers, so Ender must help stop them invade again.

Ender’s Game
Directed by
Gavin Hood
Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin
Release Date
1 November 2013
Nav’s Grade: C+

Sadly, my premise is about as complex as the actual adaptation of Card’s novel gets. If I were to list everything that was missing, I’d need to ask you to put on a pot of coffee; pull out that comfortable armchair, and be prepared for a disappointment. I’m not going down that road as there aren’t enough hours in the day. However, what we’re left with is standard sci-fi fare that may please the masses to a certain degree, but not the die-hard fans of the book.

Aesthetically, Gavin Hood’s take on Ender’s Game is quite decent, and the graphics beautifully rendered, with loads of nice details in evidence, particularly the spacecraft of both the Fleet’s, and the Buggers. I just felt as though we never got a chance to get enough time to appreciate them more. That said, the final battle with the Buggers was reminiscent to the last part of The Matrix trilogy, with nothing really original to show for their effort, which was a pity given the opportunity they had, to come up with something completely new.

Asa Butterfield is a fine young actor, whose performance brought a lot to this bland film, and made it a lot more interesting to watch. I now know how they got away with not showing Ender grow up over several years. They simply didn’t bother. Harrison Ford done well as was expected of the veteran thespian, as he growled his way through the movie, but Viola Davis was about the best of the support, by giving another very good performance. Davis’ Anderson and Ford’s Graff, were sort of Ender’s conscience, when he was being forced to act on his animal instinct, but Graff was the one doing all the pushing. His job was to make sure Ender was ready to fight, by toughening him up. Anderson wanted to go softer on the boy, causing the pair to often butt heads.

As mentioned, there was a lot left out of the story, which made the rest of the support appear more like props when they were more important. Each of the younger actors played their respective parts well, but, I’d liked to have seen more of Abigail Breslin’s Valentine, although, Hailee Steinfeld’s Petra at least played a more prominent role. Ben Kingsley’s Mazer Rackham was one that I didn’t really take to, and not simply because I’ve read the book and couldn’t picture Kingsley as that important figure. He just didn’t feel the right man for the job. For all that I like Ben Kingsley, he always appears to be everyone’s second choice; as if stepping in at the last minute to help out the director.

During the entire film, there was only twice I remember getting anything approaching a high, when with an inspirational tale such as this, I should have been cheering at the end when the inevitable defeat of the enemy happened, or, when Ender discovers the truth about what’s going on. It just didn’t give the lift I was hoping for. What Ender’s Game finally felt like, was a way to make a fast buck and a way to set up the next tale for Ender, in Speaker For The Dead, which judging by what was on screen, is something they must have considered. My final verdict? Watchable.

Review by Nav Qateel