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Review: Ender's Game

Oct. 31, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: Years after the planet is attacked by an ant-like alien race called the Formics, a military school has been set up to find brilliant strategists among Earth's young, with the idea that a child's decision making skills will lack an adult's empathy or reserve. Enter Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield)- a child prodigy with a gift for strategy. He's whisked off to battle school by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) for the final stage of his training, in the hope that he'll be able to wipe out the Formic threat once and for all.

REVIEW: Chalk this one up as a pleasant surprise. While Orson Scott Card's novel, ENDER'S GAME has long been a favorite of the sci-fi community, I can't say I've ever had the chance to read it. Sadly, my only knowledge of Card comes from the controversy surrounding his alleged homophobia, and to be sure, this did not endear me to the man. However, one must separate the art from the artist, and while he may well be an ignorant homophobe, the same obviously can't be said for the people involved with this film, so I tried to watch it with an open mind.

Despite my misgivings, I ended up thoroughly enjoying ENDER'S GAME. It's funny that this is being marketed as some kind of kid's sci-fi adventure and a potential new franchise as it's an exceedingly dark movie. Early on, Viola Davis' character remarks on the inherent evil of Earth's military turning children into soldiers, and to be sure, the film does not underplay the dehumanizing effect violence has on a young person's mind. It's a surprisingly tough movie, and while director Gavin Hood may have misfired with X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, he bounces back in a big way with this. It's worth remembering that TSOTSI, the film that put Hood on the map, also examined violence and children. He keeps ENDER'S GAME fairly gritty for a big November tent-pole release.

Asa Butterfield, as young Ender, is undoubtedly the key to the movie's success. In his first role since HUGO, fifteen-year-old Butterfield makes for an endearing protagonist. He plays Ender like an adult trapped in a child's body, and he's utterly free of any precociousness. Here, he's reminiscent of Daniel Radcliffe in one of the latter HARRY POTTER films.

Butterfield really dominates the film. Co-star Harrison Ford, in his big return to sci-fi, can't help but take a backseat throughout. Over the last decade or so, Ford's grown into a gruff, austere presence on the big-screen, but for once, this is a role that suits that tendency. It's definitely not much of a stretch for him, although there are a few scenes opposite Viola Davis as his compassionate underling that give him room to stretch a little more than usual. Still, it's all a little familiar for Ford. Ben Kingsley, in a small role as a legendary- and heavily tattooed Maori soldier, fares better, and still has good chemistry with his HUGO co-star Butterfield.

The rest of the young actors are also quite good, with TRUE GRIT's Hailee Steinfeld as his older friend Petra, Abigail Breslin as his kindly sister Valentine, and THE KINGS OF SUMMER scene-stealer Moises Arias as a particularly cruel fellow student of Ender's. Topping it all of is a surprisingly strong score by TRANSFORMERS composer Steve Jablonsky.

Probably the only area ENDER'S GAME really comes up short is the visualization of a mind-controlled video game Ender trains on, that leads to an important revelation in the third act. The design of the game is a little shlocky and too reminiscent of something one would download for their iPad than a state-of-the-art military mind-bender from hundreds of years in the future. But alas, that's a fairly minor thing. More time could have also been spent with Ender's family back home, and his conflict with his psychotic older brother feels a bit undercooked, which is a shame as it could have given him a juicy nemesis to work against. A quick perusal of the novel's synopsis on Wikipedia reveals that he plays a more prominent part in the book.

What really makes ENDER'S GAME is the ingenious ending, which is apparently faithful to Card's original novel. It gives the film a poignant punch that I honestly did not expect, and gave the film a powerful note to end on (whether or not the sequels will be adapted remains to be seen). As such, the movie seems more geared towards older kids, and adult readers of Card's saga that youngsters, although even still they'd probably still enjoy the colorful CGI and action-packed “Battle Room” war games. Whether or not they're able to grasp the more serious ideas at the heart of the movie is another thing, but it's a smart, sophisticated sci-fi yarn, and well worth checking out.

Source: JoBlo.com

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+34
9:16AM on 10/31/2013

Who cares?

While I'm glad to hear the movie is good. I have to say I'm sick of every review for this film focusing on Card's views. Literally all the man did was write the story this film is based on. He had almost nothing to do with the production. If I'm reading the review I want to hear about the movie and not the author's views on life. Whether you agree with his views or disagree is a moot point. I came to read a review of the movie so let's stick to that.
While I'm glad to hear the movie is good. I have to say I'm sick of every review for this film focusing on Card's views. Literally all the man did was write the story this film is based on. He had almost nothing to do with the production. If I'm reading the review I want to hear about the movie and not the author's views on life. Whether you agree with his views or disagree is a moot point. I came to read a review of the movie so let's stick to that.
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3:35AM on 10/31/2013
I've been looking forward to this flick for a while now. My wife got me to read the book a couple of years back & I enjoyed it. I honestly couldn't care less about the author's personal views. Everyone had a right to their own view. Even moronic bigots. I really like the casting here. I'm glad to hear that it is an actual enjoyable flick & not crap.
I've been looking forward to this flick for a while now. My wife got me to read the book a couple of years back & I enjoyed it. I honestly couldn't care less about the author's personal views. Everyone had a right to their own view. Even moronic bigots. I really like the casting here. I'm glad to hear that it is an actual enjoyable flick & not crap.
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5:23AM on 10/31/2013
I enjoyed this and gave it a 7 out of 10 as well. I hope Summit gets the post-Twilight franchise they've been looking for in the Enderverse. It will also be a massive quality upgrade. I think audiences aren't as easily wowed by spectacle, given how accessible big-budget sci fi is these days, so perhaps Ender's Game won't be as visually impressive as people want it to be. However, I really liked that this is a film targeted mainly at teenagers that deals with themes like ethics in war and the
I enjoyed this and gave it a 7 out of 10 as well. I hope Summit gets the post-Twilight franchise they've been looking for in the Enderverse. It will also be a massive quality upgrade. I think audiences aren't as easily wowed by spectacle, given how accessible big-budget sci fi is these days, so perhaps Ender's Game won't be as visually impressive as people want it to be. However, I really liked that this is a film targeted mainly at teenagers that deals with themes like ethics in war and the exploitation of children in a military context, and doesn't have an inane love triangle or anything like that.
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11:41AM on 10/31/2013
I'm curious is they follow up with the sequels or not. If they wanted to use the same actors then they would have to do Ender in Exile because other than that, Ender's Game is the only book with the main characters portrayed as children.
I'm curious is they follow up with the sequels or not. If they wanted to use the same actors then they would have to do Ender in Exile because other than that, Ender's Game is the only book with the main characters portrayed as children.
9:47PM on 10/31/2013
I didn't know that thatoneguy889; interesting point. Who would you choose to play the older versions of the characters?
I didn't know that thatoneguy889; interesting point. Who would you choose to play the older versions of the characters?
+12
4:19PM on 10/31/2013

Im excited.

Ill be honest I was expecting this one to not be to great. Enough with the orson scott card bs. he did not direct nor star whatsover in the movie all he did was write the book... so unless the movie involves a bunch of gay bashing homophobic kid soldiers you should probably get the fuck over yourself and realize this isn't his project so his opinion doesn't matter.
Ill be honest I was expecting this one to not be to great. Enough with the orson scott card bs. he did not direct nor star whatsover in the movie all he did was write the book... so unless the movie involves a bunch of gay bashing homophobic kid soldiers you should probably get the fuck over yourself and realize this isn't his project so his opinion doesn't matter.
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6:43PM on 10/31/2013
Wow consider me surprised. I wasn't going to check this out, not because he believes in traditional marriage which is his right, but the reviews are awesome so far. I might have to go see this, and for people who want to boycott you have that right too but you might miss out on a good movie.
Wow consider me surprised. I wasn't going to check this out, not because he believes in traditional marriage which is his right, but the reviews are awesome so far. I might have to go see this, and for people who want to boycott you have that right too but you might miss out on a good movie.
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1:29PM on 10/31/2013
Great book, I can't wait to take my son to see this one.
Great book, I can't wait to take my son to see this one.
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3:59PM on 10/31/2013
Hope he enjoys it. Butterfield is great in it. I probably would have loved it as a kid.
Hope he enjoys it. Butterfield is great in it. I probably would have loved it as a kid.
5:21PM on 11/02/2013
The point is... the movie is good. Thanks Chris. I usually trust your opinion. The hate against an old guy who hasn't changed the views he grew up on is kind of sickening. If the notoriously Christian JRR Tolkein were alive today and couldn't understand the new and contradicting world views being forced upon him, would you boycott the Lord of the Rings movies? Be happy that gay rights and marriage equality have made such huge strides and leave alone the people who are too set on their ways to
The point is... the movie is good. Thanks Chris. I usually trust your opinion. The hate against an old guy who hasn't changed the views he grew up on is kind of sickening. If the notoriously Christian JRR Tolkein were alive today and couldn't understand the new and contradicting world views being forced upon him, would you boycott the Lord of the Rings movies? Be happy that gay rights and marriage equality have made such huge strides and leave alone the people who are too set on their ways to let go of the past. Soon they will die and life for the tolerant will go on. I'm excited for this movie. Might see it today
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7:40AM on 11/01/2013
You say you want to separate the art from the artist but you still can't help yourself from bashing the man from having an opinion different than yours. Who exactly is the ignorant one here?
You say you want to separate the art from the artist but you still can't help yourself from bashing the man from having an opinion different than yours. Who exactly is the ignorant one here?
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+2
4:06AM on 10/31/2013
I'm glad this is all turning out well, though I do suspect that Card's behavior as of late will hurt the film. I still plan to see it, as it looks very entertaining. I've never read the book, but have always been interested in the story, so I look forward to this.
I'm glad this is all turning out well, though I do suspect that Card's behavior as of late will hurt the film. I still plan to see it, as it looks very entertaining. I've never read the book, but have always been interested in the story, so I look forward to this.
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+0
3:00PM on 11/01/2013
I saw Ender's Game last night, and thought it was pretty good. It wasn't spectacular by any means, but it was solid and fun, and that's all I wanted from it.
I saw Ender's Game last night, and thought it was pretty good. It wasn't spectacular by any means, but it was solid and fun, and that's all I wanted from it.
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-7
12:06AM on 11/01/2013
this thing is going to mega-flop. And people are going to lose their jobs because of it.The previews for this thing did themselves no favors. Amongst the worst in at least a couple of decades.
this thing is going to mega-flop. And people are going to lose their jobs because of it.The previews for this thing did themselves no favors. Amongst the worst in at least a couple of decades.
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-10
2:03PM on 10/31/2013

And yet another ignorant reviewer.....

Who can't wait to explain his grasp of politics in his movie review as if giving his opinion about a film makes his opinion about anything else relevant.

Hey Chris, our current Democrat President held the EXACT SAME VIEWS about gays for the first 51 years of his life (until last year when he magically "evolved" his beliefs at the exact same time his campaign was in trouble and he needed an infusion of cash).

Really Chris, we all were on the edge of our seats eagerly waiting to find out
Who can't wait to explain his grasp of politics in his movie review as if giving his opinion about a film makes his opinion about anything else relevant.

Hey Chris, our current Democrat President held the EXACT SAME VIEWS about gays for the first 51 years of his life (until last year when he magically "evolved" his beliefs at the exact same time his campaign was in trouble and he needed an infusion of cash).

Really Chris, we all were on the edge of our seats eagerly waiting to find out if you were "endeared" to a writer or not. Because your opinion means so much to us......douchebag....
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3:58PM on 10/31/2013
Read the comments below Des. Obviously this IS an issue for a lot of readers here. Maybe you don't care, but can you blame our readers for maybe not wanting to shell out money that will line a notorious homophobe's pockets? I'm not saying this should make you NOT go see the movie (I liked it after all) but for a lot of folks here it may be a real issue, and frankly I don't blame them if it is. And if my opinion means nothing to you, than gee- maybe you should be reading my review in the first
Read the comments below Des. Obviously this IS an issue for a lot of readers here. Maybe you don't care, but can you blame our readers for maybe not wanting to shell out money that will line a notorious homophobe's pockets? I'm not saying this should make you NOT go see the movie (I liked it after all) but for a lot of folks here it may be a real issue, and frankly I don't blame them if it is. And if my opinion means nothing to you, than gee- maybe you should be reading my review in the first place.
-20
8:08AM on 10/31/2013
I am leaning towards this being a dud, somewhat like Lone Ranger where you have taken a story that a modern audience has no care for or following. Thats not saying the movie is bad, just that their isn't a real audience for it....but you never know
I am leaning towards this being a dud, somewhat like Lone Ranger where you have taken a story that a modern audience has no care for or following. Thats not saying the movie is bad, just that their isn't a real audience for it....but you never know
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11:36AM on 10/31/2013
No following? To this day, Ender's Game is one of the top selling sci-fi novels of all time. Since the trailer came out I've had at least five friends ask to borrow the book from me so they could read it before they saw the movie.
No following? To this day, Ender's Game is one of the top selling sci-fi novels of all time. Since the trailer came out I've had at least five friends ask to borrow the book from me so they could read it before they saw the movie.
-36
10:11AM on 10/31/2013

"seporate Art from the Artist"

Sorry, that is not something that is easily done, especially given how vocal the creator has been in the media of late. Where I'm happy we have another big budget sci-fi film, it's sad it came from a deranged bigot.
Sorry, that is not something that is easily done, especially given how vocal the creator has been in the media of late. Where I'm happy we have another big budget sci-fi film, it's sad it came from a deranged bigot.
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10:56AM on 10/31/2013
Disagreeing with homosexuality doesn't make one a bigot and yes you can separate the art from the artist. I do it all the time.
Disagreeing with homosexuality doesn't make one a bigot and yes you can separate the art from the artist. I do it all the time.
11:21AM on 10/31/2013
Actually, Vienna_rage, that is precisely what a makes a bigot.
: a person who is or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
Actually, Vienna_rage, that is precisely what a makes a bigot.
: a person who is or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices especially one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
11:25AM on 10/31/2013
Hollywood is filled with hateful scum. If you can't ignore that when you walk into a movie theater then you will rarely enjoy a film these days.
Hollywood is filled with hateful scum. If you can't ignore that when you walk into a movie theater then you will rarely enjoy a film these days.
12:36PM on 10/31/2013
So then atheists must be bigoted against Christians, Christians must be bigoted against atheists, etc. there is a difference between disagreeing with something and being intolerant of it.
So then atheists must be bigoted against Christians, Christians must be bigoted against atheists, etc. there is a difference between disagreeing with something and being intolerant of it.
1:07PM on 10/31/2013
Atheists aren't bigots, they're merely intolerant of absolute fucking nonsense masquerading as The Truth.
Atheists aren't bigots, they're merely intolerant of absolute fucking nonsense masquerading as The Truth.
2:01PM on 10/31/2013
He has never treated homosexuals with hatred sorry he disagrees with your opinion fellas.
He has never treated homosexuals with hatred sorry he disagrees with your opinion fellas.
2:07PM on 10/31/2013
Jstin, you mean kind of like how Barack Obama was a virulent homophobe for the first 51 years of his life?

Because I'm sure you hold him to the same standard as an anonymous guy who writes a book, right?
Jstin, you mean kind of like how Barack Obama was a virulent homophobe for the first 51 years of his life?

Because I'm sure you hold him to the same standard as an anonymous guy who writes a book, right?
3:39PM on 10/31/2013
This comment doesn't really belong under a movie review.
This comment doesn't really belong under a movie review.
4:23PM on 10/31/2013
*seperate
*seperate
6:45PM on 10/31/2013
some atheists are the most disgusting, hateful people I have ever met who have no tolearance but just spew hate and garbage. Schwarzgerät proves that again, poor guy I'll say a prayer for you.
some atheists are the most disgusting, hateful people I have ever met who have no tolearance but just spew hate and garbage. Schwarzgerät proves that again, poor guy I'll say a prayer for you.
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