Posted on 11/01/13 06:28 AM
"If he doesn't there won't be a home to go to".
Like buses when you wait for one sci-fi film they all come at once. There's been a fair few in the genre this year with 'Elysium', 'Pacific Rim', 'After Earth', 'Oblivion' now this and the upcoming Oscar shoe-in 'Gravity'. For most genres this isn't much but given the genre 4 or 5 is a bucket load. Unfortunately its not all be roses with the thinly plotted and poorly acted 'After Earth' sullying what was a solid run for the genre. I had no idea what this was about the book it was based I've never read but when I hear sci-fi - more specifically space oriented sci-fi - I'm in.
Its been unfairly compared to a video game, I say this because video games have grown in the story department and using it as a unfavorably term - irks me the wrong way. Overall I felt this was a poor story that reminded me of a slightly more serious 'Spy Kids' without it being aware of itself. 'Asa Butterfield' plays the title character 'Ender' a highly gifted boy who is being molded into the saviour of the human race by 'Graff' (Harrison Ford) gearing him up to take on the enemy force that once tried to wipe the planet earth out. I tend to cringe when hear kids as commanders or spies its just ridiculous and I tried in this case to ignore it. But that wasn't easy you see the problem I have is the grown up personalities contradict the whole thing. At the end they are kids even the smart ones are juvenile in some regard. There's always the chance that the script compared with the film has muddied the characters and personalities but even so we're watching the film not the book. The story takes far too long to get where it actually begins, shortening the time or splitting it up into two films would have helped it.
Trying to grasp at an actual story is difficult even when it begins. Other than repelling a threat and destroying the alien race its nothing more than a series of training exercises that increasingly routine. I did like some aspects the 'Full Metal Jacket' like boot camp and the 'twist' end was pretty good - which actually saved it from being bad. Equally and probably more so there are more things wrong with it than there are right with it. The brief and pointless romance with 'Petra' and the short lived feud with some of the others. Thinly veiled friendships are a theme here. The only interesting dynamic is that between 'Ender' and 'Graff' it changes as the film goes on and becomes more volatile before it turns to a clear hatred - unsurprising given the deceit and a brilliant acted scene from 'Asa'.
Heavy use of CGI is unavoidable so you'd expect it to be top drop but its often flat and very much obvious it isn't a real object. The alien planet is pretty well designed and has a nice loom to it. The same can't be said of the rest most of which are very uninspired. The training room is nothing more than a glowing orb and the big ships are too reminiscent of 'Star Wars' imperial cruisers. In a film where the story was anonymous and the characters generally basic of the basic some yes candy would have helped. It would have at least with some original design give it some sort of identity. Instead it will be forgotten and become a victim of the over use of showing on TV.
Thankfully the acting goes some way in saving it 'Harrison Ford' is a natural as the hard as a commander - think 'Solo' with the sense of humour. 'Asa' is excellent as 'Ender' there's a clear quiet confidence about him - and a calculating look to boot. Despite the mostly young cast there's no sign of amateurish acting in sight, they are all excellent even with the at times by the numbers dialogue. It's a confidently acted film throughout and that is by far the best part of the film.
Another film and another sci-fi one, 'Enders Game' isn't the thrilling sci-fi adventure that I'd hope would be or it thinks it is. Its a competent film that has some major issues. The story is none existent for most of the film and even when I does appear that can be questioned as well. A lack of good CGI which this kind of thing needed really hurt it. But the acting and a few scenes make it just about worth watching. In the end it'll be forgotten and reduced to monthly TV showings.