In yet another Hollywood adaptation of a young adult novel by Orson Scott Card, featuring kids being used for violent entertainment/propaganda (Hunger Games) or weapons in a war against aliens, Asa Butterfield (Hugo) stars as Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young cadet who was handpicked by International Fleet Col. Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) to receive training and be groomed as the next commander in a major attack against aliens called Formics, who 50 years ago tried to establish a colony on planet Earth. With his talent for logic, and strategy, Ender goes through the program and becomes the leader of a ragtag band of talented misfits in the Academy. As the training becomes more intense, however, Ender begins to question his decisions and the true face of the enemy.
From the trailer, one would think that Ender’s Game is a non stop action adventure like Star Wars or Starship Troopers. The concept, is, after all, based on the same premise — destroying alien invaders. The difference is, this time, kids as young as the 10 years old are being trained to launch wars in simulated battle environments, with the care for their welfare, sanity and morality becoming only secondary considerations in a war against the Formics, giant moth-like creatures that are being prevented from a second attack against the planet.
The graphics for Ender’s Game was awesome. The designs were spectacular and looked like it could very well be lifted from scenes from a video game. I liked the scenes with Ender at the academy, while he was establishing his role as leader to the Dragons — composed mainly of his streetkid buddy Bean (Aramis Knight), Petra (Haylee Steinfeld), Alai (Suraj Partha), and the bully Bernard (Connor Caroll). I think that casting for this movie was pretty amazing. The kids gelled well together as a group and as individuals, their performances were excellent — especially Asa Butterfield, who played the conflicted genius Ender, who bore on his shoulders the responsibility of eliminating a threat to his planet, to his race and to his family and the one person he truly loved — his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin), who is growing up to be such a beautiful young woman. I liked that when they were playing war games, they looked like they were having fun like kids playing capture the flag in camp. While the bullying is a bit violent and extreme for me (more like prison level), it served to establish the magnitude of the training and the level of competition and hate that are developed in the children. The intensity of the cadets’ concentration in the final simulation and the difference in their attitude from the beginning of the training was totally different and this reaches out to the audience, especially when the final twist was revealed.
Ender’s Game could have, however, benefitted from some editing. While sequentially, each scene served to establish the big picture, there were parts of the story that were too drawn out making the dialogue parts too long before the next major development in the story. The foreshadowing parts were good and when everything is pieced together in the end, the horror becomes all too real for moviegoers, especially those with children.
All in all, Ender’s Game was a good movie, but it was nothing like the campy (but entertaining) action-fest like Starship Troopers or the Sci Fi adventure like Star Wars or Star Trek. While it stars children, the content is nothing truly appropriate for kids. While it was visually stunning, the message would sit better with adults and world leaders because the elements of this science fiction scenario can easily be subplanted with real life countries waging war against each other in our world today. At the end of the day, Ender’s Game gets audiences to think what cost humanity is willing to sacrifice to win a war. Because come to think of it, we really don’t need aliens to destroy our planet. We are doing it on our own.