Sunday, 27 October 2013

Ender's Game Review

I wonder if Ender's Game is what George Melies imagined science fiction cinema would become one day in the future. Hugo's George Melies Sir Ben Kinglsey reunites with Hugo himself Asa Butterfield in this frequently spectacular voyage into space that sees a young boy trained for command in a war against a deadly alien race.

It is light years ahead of Melies stop/start special effects and contains contemporary relevance that has clearly not been lost even though the book it is adapted from is nearly 30 years old. After Earth is attacked by a huge swarm of aliens, the population of the planet is decimated then swiftly saved by the sacrifice of one great warrior. Humans, including Harrison Ford's gruff Colonel Graff, are not about to let another massacre occur again should the 'evil' alien race return and so for some dubious and far too quickly explained reason, have decided to train children into warriors to tackle the threat.

It seems an implausible set up and the future Earth is brusquely brushed over in order to get the action into space. Ender Wiggin (Butterfield) is a bullied kid who beats the crap out of another kid to ensure the bully never picks on him again. That's all it takes for Harrison Ford to think Ender is the next John Connor, great military leader and saviour of the planet. So off to space they go for a film about training kids in future space warfare and zero gravity shoot outs.

Ender quickly rises in the ranks and becomes a commander of the other kids in their space training facility. He forms some bonds, particularly with Hailee Steinfeld's Petra and also makes a few enemies. All the while Harrison Ford and Viola Davis (as some kind of psychologist) battle for Ender's soul, Ford wanting him to become a heartless killer and Davis concerned that Ender will be pushed too far.

The training scenes zip along but amount to little and it is never really clear why Ender is the chosen one. What makes Ender's Game a must see for gung-ho let's go to war and nuke the bastards types is the bleak message it pounces on the audience at the end. The politics of heroics are replaced by sacrifice, shame and genocide as Ender learns the true cost of war. However, then the producers and writer/director Gavin Hood clearly get a bit nervous about such a downbeat ending so they attach a pointless grab for a more hopeful sequel.

Nevertheless Ender's Game makes up for an occasionally clunky script with some impressive spectacle and weighty themes that lift it slightly above the average soulless science fiction extravaganza.

Check out my videos from the Ender's Game Q&A in London:

More on Ender's Game:

Ender's Game Q and A with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Hailee SteinFeld and Gavin Hood

More reviews at I Love That Film:

Sunshine on Leith Review

How I Live Now


The Call


The Lone Ranger

You're Next

We're the Millers

2 Guns