Ender's Game Movie Review
It took many, many, many, many years, but Orson Scott Card's incredible book "Ender's Game" has finally been adapted into a movie. A movie directed by Gavin Hood, the guy behind the atrocious X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Talk about settling. Thankfully, and rather surprisingly, Ender's Game is a worthwhile endeavor - though it's hardly the epic it could have been.
The movie is about a boy named Ender Wiggin, who is recruited to compete with other children in a zero-gravity battle school. The goal: to train for eventual command of Earth's fleet to defend against a threatening alien race.
Ender's Game is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the book, with elements removed. Gone is the intriguing but complicated subplot involving Peter Wiggin's political motivations, an admittedly tough segment of the story to bring to film. There are of course other subtleties that have been lost, and much of the denouement has been abridged.
Still, Ender's Game is a relatively fast-paced thriller (though my friend described the movie as feeling like it was four hours long) that doesn't necessarily capture the protagonist's full brilliance, but does an adequate job of showing his development from kid to military leader. The battle school sequences are entertaining and the film builds to a strong climax. It's not as deep or as sophisticated as it could have been, but the movie maintains the book's spirit.
Unfortunately, Ender's Game falls far short of masterpiece. Hood's direction is decent enough, but it's not difficult to imagine what the movie could have been in more capable hands. Hood, who co-wrote the screenplay with Card himself, shies away from much of the story's nuances; there are other directors who could have made the movie more suspenseful and exciting without sacrificing intelligence.
The acting is a mixed bag, though it's hard to tell where the problems stem from the actors or the screenplay. Harrison Ford gives it his all, but Asa Butterfield, who plays Ender, struggles with the stilted dialogue at times. Hailee Steinfeld, who was nominated for an Oscar for True Grit, seems uncomfortable in her role, and Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis are largely wasted in underdeveloped roles.
More importantly, many of the other supporting characters - especially the other children like Bean (Aramis Knight) - are poorly developed. The children are supposed to be geniuses not unlike Ender, but the film opts to tell us that they are smart rather than show us.
Ender's Game is a decent piece of entertainment, but unfortunately that's all that is. It's better than expected but not as good as it needed to be, so here's to many, many, many, many more years of waiting before Hollywood tries again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.