Adapted from Orson Scott Card’s successful 1985 sci-fi novel of the same name, Ender’s Game is a film that makes a decent attempt at sticking true to its origins. The film is set in the future and in the usual sci-fi routine, humanity is at risk from an alien invasion. What sets Ender’s Game apart, however, is that in this instance the only person capable of leading the International Fleet against the alien invasion is apparently a young child – selected from a group of teenage boys (and the odd girl) with an aptitude for video games and violence.
Why exactly Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is earth’s only chance of salvation is never made explicitly clear, an issue that is of particular importance considering the fact that the very leader he is meant to replace – war hero Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) is still alive, fairly young and responsible for training Ender. One reason for this may be the film’s peculiar pacing, attempting to cram an entire novel’s worth of content into 114 minutes proving a difficult task for director Gavin Hood. The end result is a remarkably fast transition for Ender, rising through the ranks of the military in what feels like a matter of minutes.
Butterfield’s excellent performance as protagonist Ender shows good promise for the rest of his career, and is shored up by mostly successful performances from the rest of the cast. While Ben Kingsley’s peculiar Maori face tattoo and dire Kiwi accent was bordering on embarrassing, a strong performance from Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff – another of Ender’s mentors – is enough to give the film some much needed gravitas. Regardless of his acting merit, casting Ford does come off a bit strange, turning the film into a sort of oddly done geek fantasy – what would happen if we took Harry Potter and made Han Solo his mentor?
The film does make some attempt at conveying the deeper sensibilities and ideas behind the novel, however. There is a strong theme throughout about finding your moral compass, as Ender struggles with the consequences of his actions. Somewhat ironically, the film has caused controversy for the author’s homophobic views, leading the director to claim that the author’s “position in real life is at odds with his art”. Thankfully, the film stands alone and any homophobic undertones from the novel (such as the rather unfortunate nickname of the alien race, the Buggers) have been removed for the big screen. While the film does have some success in promoting a deeper, more thoughtful kind of sci-fi film, it would have been nice for the film to explore some of its more contemporary themes, such as remote warfare, in further depth.
Overall, Ender’s Game is a mixed success. Some aspects of the film were doubtless a failure, such as its odd pacing and Ben Kingsley’s entire performance. However its awesome CGI and zero gravity action sequences should be more than enough to satisfy both its teenage audience and fans of the original novel.
Image: Summit Entertainment