Ender's Game Reviews
Good Movie! Despite all the odds, Ender's Game winds up as a very good movie that just barely misses on being a great one. Perhaps the films biggest strength is its production design, the technical team did an outstanding job of bringing the environments of the battle school to life, the zero gravity combat scenes being some of the films biggest highlights. It's not all perfect however, there is a little problem with some of the heavy exposition dumps in the film. Plus a couple of the actors (most notably Viola Davis) seem lost and don't know what kind of movie they're supposed to be doing. The biggest problem with Ender's Game is the incredibly fast pace, which isn't an immediate issue, but a lot of story and character development suffers. Overall though, this film was worth the long gestation period. It delivers more than we had a right to expect. Orson Scott Card may be homophobic but the powerful message at the heart of this film says much more than the average Hollywood film is capable of delivering.
The Earth was ravaged by the Formics, an alien race seemingly determined to destroy humanity. Seventy years later, the people of Earth remain banded together to prevent their own annihilation from this technologically superior alien species. Ender Wiggin, a quiet but brilliant boy, may become the savior of the human race. He is separated from his beloved sister and his terrifying brother and brought to battle school in orbit around earth. He will be tested and honed into an empathetic killer who begins to despise what he does as he learns to fight in hopes of saving Earth and his family.
So in the year 2086 aliens attack the Earth, ravage it but get beaten by the heroics of a bunch of jet fighter pilots (no doubt US ones) and one specific pilot called Ben Kingsley. We see this at the start in a lovely 'Independence Day' rip off which really really does look and feel like a complete rip off right down to how one human manages to bring down the alien mothership. He flies his jet into the ship...yep that's it, he crashes his jet into the underside of it and that somehow manages to completely tear it apart. Wow, after all that time fighting all they had to do was smash a jet into it.
Fifty years later and the human race now depends on young children to defend the world against further alien attacks. Yes the powers that be have decided that the worlds smartest scroats, that have been raised on...errr videogames, are the best chance for human survival in the future. So all those hours playing Grand Theft Auto will finally pay off for you it this universe. So all these super gaming kids get sent to a strict military space camp where they are trained a whole lot of military crap that doesn't seem to have any remote use for what they are gonna be doing at the end of the day which is commanding massive fleets like a videogame.
Yes this film had me thinking, why are all these kids being taught how to shoot each other in big zero G war games? why are they being run into the ground like a common grunt? why are they being taught martial arts and self defense?. At the end of the day none of that, in my view, will be of any use when it comes to commanding these fleets...like videogames. The whole thing just felt so bizarre, the fact the world relies on prepubescent kids in the first place, kids that seem to crack easily quite understandably and all that film time based on those pointless zero G war games. Yeah so the training gets them tough OK, but end of the day they're still only using a large touch screen monitor.
Essentially this entire film is all about watching this one sulky kid getting trained because Harrison Ford thinks he's 'the one' (haven't seen that before). That's it! that's all it is! just glossy looking videogaming and training with lots of pomp and emotional musical scores which fail to evoke any emotion because he's only playing flippin' videogames and training!. Oh and can't forget about the obligatory bullying of the new kid, gotta have that training camp bullying. It all looks fantastically slick and shiny no doubt, can't fault the visuals at all just like all modern films, it looks superb. But the film is so utterly dull and pointless and it doesn't even explain anything like why do these aliens attack Earth in the first place. Also these aliens are actually large bugs, overgrown locust looking bugs (Starship Troopers novel much?), they don't have hands fingers or thumbs of any kind. So how in the hell do they manage to even build spacecraft let alone fly them like some kind of divine air Gods. These ships actually manoeuvre like small flying bugs, zipping around in massive cloud-like swarms, its insane!. Daft thing is the human ships do the same thing too! they perform moves that would render 'Han Solo' and 'Pete Mitchell' lost for words.
What made me laugh was the fact that when Ender fudges up his training missions both Ford and Kingsley's characters berate him like no ones business! yeah that will help him sheesh!. I dunno what think of this film I really don't, the acting by the adults is limp with Ford merely growling all the time and Kingsley slipping in and out of his Kiwi accent. The Maori tattoos on his face are pretty much just there to give him a more interesting look, otherwise he'd just be another grumpy officer. The kids do all act pretty well I can't deny, although Butterfield as Ender does grate with his pouting face and whining.
I can't say much about the finale without giving it away but it did catch me out I'll admit, didn't see that twist. So I must give kudos for that, after which the plot does get more interesting as Ender does kinda go native with the bugs, but then it ends so that sucked. Seems to me that the next chapter is more interesting than the stuff we just had to sit through. So don't go expecting lots of futuristic space battles and bug zapping cos you ain't gonna get it folks. No bug hunts here I'm afraid, just lots of tedious military war games explained to you via lots of fast talking incomprehensible futuristic military space jargon.
Hood also does a very subpar job handling the passage of time, whether it was through a misuse of montage or the inability to show Ender age throw careful SFX/makeup I can't help but feel the whole thing took place within the span of a couple of weeks.
Then there's the throw-away supporting cast. Other than Petra (and possibly his sister) all supporting characters were largely forgettable despite the use of working archetypes.
With all that said, it boasts an interesting story and with the multiple clans in the training room you almost get a "Sci Fi Harry Potter" effect with the franchise that tweens may enjoy. Although the zero-G skirmishes between the clans did end up feeling rather arbitrary to preparing them to be flawless commanders. The effort to make it seem relevant in the end was almost a stretch.
Nate's Grade: B+