Ender's Game was a fascinating film. Very rarely do we get a movie starring young actors that is smart and thought-provoking. What works best about the film is the psychological questions that are raised. In the world this movie takes place in, children are humanity's best hope for winning a war against an alien race that attacked us first. Besides the ethical question of whether it is acceptable to train children to be hardened soldiers and play war games, the story raises bigger questions such as what makes a "good" battle commander? Gaining the respect of your cadets? Playing by the rules, or throwing out the rules completely? Winning, whatever the costs? Understanding the enemy?
These are important questions to ask, especially in a landscape of films where it is all about explosions and special effects, with little consideration about who is being fought.
The film rests on the shoulders of Asa Butterfield, who plays Ender Wiggins. Thankfully, the actor portrays the character perfectly. The character is supposed to come off as physically weak and emotionally scarred, which Butterfield captures. The actor is excellent, particularly in the more dramatic scenes that come towards the end. Not so great is Harrison Ford, because he seems so distant and cold despite appearing in majority of the film. However, he shines towards the end of the movie. I wish Viola Davis' character (Anderson) had been given more screen time, and maybe scenes with Ender. She brings a warmth that is needed in this extremely serious movie.
The film looks great. I was especially impressed with the costumes, set design of the battle school, and the alien itself.
I'll admit that the film had flaws. While it looked beautiful, particularly zero-gravity sequences inside the battle school, it was difficult to understand what the characters were doing. We rarely saw what the "enemy" team was doing and the "attacks" were filmed from a wide angle, so it was hard to see who was hitting whom.
Also, it felt like points from the book were forced into the movie in ways that didn't translate well. For example, the tension between different team members was forced. Also, the weird relationship between Ender, his sister Valentine, and brother Peter felt glossed over, whereas in the books this is very important to the mental state of Ender.
As a reader of the first book, I felt like the film was a faithful adaptation. As also someone who disagrees strong with the opinions of the author, I still feel like the book and movie are very good and can be enjoyed as thought-provoking pieces of art.
I feel like the ending does a great job teasing a sequel. My understanding, though, is the film did not perform well enough to merit one. I may just have to read the books, but I am hopeful for either a film sequel or TV series, which has been discussed.