Ender’s Game – 4/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

ender's gameEnder’s Game – 4/5 – A film based on a novel.  A film that uses a novel can cause a love/hate relationship.  When it comes to people who are fans of certain books, if you change things or diverge from anything in the novel, they will completely dislike the film.  On the other hand, if you have not read the book, the film can be judged with an unbiased perspective.  With that being said, I fall into the category of have never read this book.  Even with not knowing the book’s plot, I can definitely say that this film does engage the audience, and helps you create humbleness towards life.  Ender’s Game is a wonderful experience at the theater.

Premise: The International Military is determined to find a leader who can save the human race. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited to be this leader.  Through all the training, Ender comes to face not only his own growth, but the realization that everything is not a game.

In the lead role of Ender Wiggin, we have young actor Asa Butterfield.  In this role, he creates a character who is true to his raw emotions, but also self aware of decision and consequences.  In these shifting traits, Butterfield shows real human conflict; one that rears its head as compassion vs. rage.  He is trying to balance truth of the situation (the war against foreign invaders from space) to actuality of the situation.  Throughout the film, this juggling act of being real to him, and real to the training is at the forefront.  In the training, we see he tests his will, his mind and his heart.  Through it all,  we watch a maturation that is believable to our own growth.  This helps create a layered individual who is beyond exceptional, but also grounded within innocence.  Opposite him in his training, you have fellow cadets Bean (Aramis Knight), Alai (Suraj Partha) and Petra (Hailee Steinfield).  These young actors/actresses help add to that ‘child caught in an adult world’ situation, but do it in a way that is reflective of realistic values, like Ender.  They help compliment Ender’s growth through this military program, as well as help create emotional situations that will make you think about society, life and acceptance.  The people that help train these kids are Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis).  These three veterans give top notch performances, as they help add to the humanistic values created by the children.  In being the ‘teachers’, as well as archetypical military personnel, they help give us an introspective look at training, but the arrogance at being in those positions.  This arrogance helps provide a conflict for Ender’s maturation in the film.  Also, it adds to the emotional depth and engagement of the overall experience.   For the supporting roles, you have the family of Ender, the rest of the trainees and the rest of the military personnel.  As good as these supporting characters are in helping the film, they are generically used as devices for plot progression.

The direction of the film is one that combines a few elements of standard directing.  You have the overall ‘sci-fi’ elements that define the premise and purpose of the story, but also the traditional use of a ‘boot camp/military’ shtick.  With these standard elements, the film is able to harden a linear path that allows the focus of the film to follow on the progress of one character, Ender Wiggin.  In the beginning, we get a standard prologue to introduce the ‘sci-fi’ elements.  Earth was attacked by a foreign entity know as the Formics.  In that devastation,  Earth was able to  stop the forces by the sacrifice of a marvelous commander.  Millions of lives were lost, but the war was one.  Now in the present (50 years since the attack), the international military is preparing a new breed of soldiers (young children) to battle the Formics before they attack again.   Once this prologue is out of the way, we are thrust into the background of Ender.  Ender is a child with a brilliant mind, caught between doing his best for his family and also coming to grips to the situation he is being built to perform for.  Once we get introduced to Ender, we watch as the film’s ‘boot camp/military’ situation unfolds into the sci-fi themed story.  In this introduction, we watch Ender gradually move up the ranks, be molded as the commander that Colonel Graff has been looking for.  As you watch his progression, the emotional overtones of truth, purpose, morality and heart kick into high gear.  This is built up by the great character interaction between Ender, Colonel Graff, and the rest of the trainees.  In this interaction, you see Ender’s brilliance, but also his direness to leave his innocence.  The bulk of this film focuses on Ender’s training, and how it creates conflicting viewpoints and emotional choices for both him and the others in the film.  This helps ground the film to reality, and provides a window to engage with caring for Ender and other’s.  This also provides a film that noticeably moves at a quick pace.  The only downfall of this is that it never really gives the film enough to time to explain (in real depth) any elements of the training, the reason behind the attacks or the preemptive strike on the Formics.  You get gracious exposition to explain some of these things in the film, but there isn’t enough to make the film deeply involving (outside of the characters).  Once the film heads into the climax, it’s a great mix of action and military tactics combined with sci-fi elements of futuristic weaponry.  Once the climax passes, you are faced with a shocking revelation.   This revelation helps add to the emotional overtones created through Ender’s conflict with his duty and ‘purpose’.  Once the film comes to an end, you feel the situation’s morality aspect, but also have an understanding of what happens, no matter if you agree or disagree.

The visuals of the film are both subtle and colorful.  What these two descriptions do is create an ironic feel.  You are grounded to reality with the aspect of the kids, people and Earth, but also are amazed at the creation of the futuristic training grounds for the international military.  The visuals are not over done, but some of the sci-fi elements can get confusing.  This is because the visuals are thrust ‘as is’ and it plays on the assumption of the audience, hoping there is quick acceptance of the otherworldly elements.  The score feels as if it is on a two track rotation; the music is completely redundant.  You have the same ‘face pace’ track used for the action scenes, and the same ballad used for the emotional conflicts.

Overall, Ender’s Game is one I didn’t know what to expect, but got a lot out of it in end.  With the emotional depth created by the main character, good sci-fi elements and a traditional ‘boot camp’ scenario, you will find a mix of good entertainment and thematic meaning in this film.  I say watch this film at the theater, you won’t be disappointed.

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