Film Review: Ender’s Game

Monday 13 October 2014 by

Ender's Game, Film, Orson Scott Card, Asa Butterfield

It’s always going to be hard to create a film from a cult classic, but this adaptation of Ender’s Game certainly gave it a good go.

The story follows a young genius called Ender (Asa Butterfield), who finds himself swiftly moving up the ranks in the army as they try to take on an alien race. That’s perhaps over-simplifying it, but probably all you need to know for now.

This is an impressive film when it comes to special effects, the director using all his might to throw mind-boggling visual overload at us. But in definite terms, this is a broad brushstroke film, with the director hoping you’ll go along with much of what is implied.

Orson Scott Card’s book delved much deeper into Ender’s psyche, exploring his leadership abilities and moral and familial emotions. Whereas this film trusts you to fill in the blanks, offering checkpoints to assure you that Ender is doing what he should be.

If you know the story, then you know the result of it; but the journey that it takes you on is no less entertaining. In the vein of the other teenager-hero plotlines, it’s got a growth arc, the nemesis and the self-doubt, and the overall success. But where it differs, is the result is not as clean cut as the good vs bad that we normally believe.

Butterfield carries this film strongly, with support from the likes of Hailee Steinfeld, Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley. Even cameos from Nonso Anozie and Abigail Breslin mean that you will watch the film, constantly exclaiming at the familiar faces. You will also be suitably impressed by the special effects; the ‘globe’ in which they practice their battle formations is the best bit of it, and the battle ground in which they fight is eye-watering.

But I wasn’t asoutnded by it – it felt lacklustre in comparison to the book, and there was something that didn’t quite feel complete. It’s the broad brushstrokes thing all over again, where you are trusted to fill in the gaps, but never quite make the connection they need you to do to make it seamless.

I would love to see more of Asa Butterfield, whose presence onscreen was consistently powerful and I think will go far. This was not the blockbusting brilliance I had hoped for, but for a 100 minutes or so, it was moderately entertaining, and that’s no more than you can ask from a film that tries to hold up to a science fiction cult classic.

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