CAST: ASA BUTTERFIELD, HARRISON FORD, HAILEE STEINFELD, ABIGAIL BRESLIN, BEN KINGSLEY, VIOLA DAVIS, MOISES ARIAS, JIMMY “JAX” PINCHAK, SURAJ PARTHASARATHY, CONNOR CARROLL, ARAMIS KNIGHT, KHYLIN RHAMBO, NONSO ANOZIE
DIRECTOR: GAVIN HOOD
SUMMARY: Orson Scott Card’s classic tale of a genius kid training for an alien invasion comes to life. Years after the Formic Wars, Earth prepares for another possible alien attack. Under the stern supervision of Major Hiram Graff (Ford), smart kids around the world train in a battle school. Ender (Butterfield), the third of the Wiggin children, is considered “the chosen one” – the one who will lead Earth against the enemies. Clever, talented and with a healthy disdain for authority, Ender’s impressive performance elicit equal amounts of awe, envy and concern from teachers and students. Despite the makings of a ruthless battle commander, Ender is a compassionate child with a deep love for his sister Valentine (Breslin), his closest friend and protector. This compassion, Ender believes is the key to defeating the aliens. If he finally understands his enemy, he’ll destroy them like how he decimates his battle school competition. However, he also knows understanding leads to love, a feeling that may prevent him from marshaling the necessary strength and cunning to win the war. How Ender balances his compassion and killer instinct, how he relates with authorities, how he deals with his subordinates and how he keeps his sanity in the face of overwhelming responsibilities are the keys to human survival.
- “Ender’s Game” is one of the most straightforward novels I have read. It never waxed philosophical but imparts readers some of the most inconvenient philosophies in life. It is also quite political. Though complex, these political views are never muddled. Each character has preferred means and desired goals which are organized and clear. Right off the bat, a reader will hate or root for certain characters until human emotions and rationale, complicate the black-and-white picture, turning it into a grayscale landscape. The more we learn about a character, the more we question ourselves. Yet, the story never strayed from its clear path. And when it reached its destination – in a most shocking fashion – we never knew what hit us. The mark of a great novel, for me, is clarity and complexity. A great novel should answer our immediate questions and question our long-held ideals and principles. Orson Scott Card did so in his masterpiece.
- The question, however, with the film adaptation is, did it do justice to one of the most beloved/reviled works of science fiction? I think the film is acceptable, appropriate and above average but still not the best screen adaptation. By leaving out the stories of “Locke and Demosthenes”, alter egos of Ender’s older siblings, Peter and Valentine, it deliberately shortchanged the audience. If “Ender’s Game” is a commentary on military, politics and international relations, surely, you’ll be asking, where are the opinion maker. “Locke” and “Demosthenes” are the opinion makers. As potent as Ender’s tactic in battle school, “The only way to gain respect is doing so well you can’t be ignored”; Peter’s belief, “That is what historians usually do, quibble about cause and effect when the point is, there are times when the world is in flux and the right voice in the right place can move the world” is equally puissant. I think the stories of Peter and Valentine need to be told for their characters are as formidable as their kid brother. In my equation, Peter is the id; Valentine is the superego; and Ender is the ego. It makes more sense to see them as one functioning psychic apparatus.
- With a cast composed of some of the best and brightest young actors and a brilliant veteran support, the acting will rarely fail the movie. It is also commendable to see such a diverse group of actors. Now, of the entire cast, I am mostly fond of VIOLA DAVIS and MOSES ARIAS. DAVIS, whose mettle as a performer has been tested and enhanced through the years, once again lend her patented dignity. She is so dignified in all the scenes she is in, even when she is about to break from Graff’s teaching methods. ARIAS, whose performance as Bonzo Madrid and physical appearance is equally memorable is such a stand-out. Hollywood, you are looking at your next consummate character actor. I mean, he made me think of Peter Lorre and Steve Buscemi each time he appears on screen. As for the production and special effects, the battle room is a stunner and the final battle is decent. But is it just me or some of the set pieces look and feel inadequate. The planetoid Eros looks inferior. Yes, it is supposed to be “rough”, “uncomfortable” and “hopeless” but it did not come across as such. Pace-wise, “Ender’s Game” is brisk, too brisk for my taste. As I said, it left out some fairly important parts, which I never understood because the novel is short compared to other books adapted for films.
- Now, a moment of inappropriateness. (Butterfield delivers a well-acted, well-thought out performance. He is Ender. Moving on.) Lead actor ASA BUTTERFIELD, oh boy, apologies, but all I can think of whenever he is on screen is, “In about a couple of decades, he will bring Tumblr down to its knees.” He reminds me so much of Benedict Cumberbatch. Before the Cumbercookies howl in protest (which I believe will not happen), here me out. The Batch and the Butter both a) rock the tall (the kid stands 5’10″), slender Brit look b) possess enigmatic and memorable faces c) talented and d) bear incredible names (Asa Maxwell Thornton Farr Butterfield). The. Batch. The. Butter. #fangirling
- “Ender’s Game” is brisk, clear-cut film adaptation with a fine performance from an accomplished cast. That said, it missed its chance to put forth a complete picture of Orson Scott’s powerful tale in omitting the stories of of Peter and Valentine. The book is controversial because of its ideas, as well as its depiction of authorities and children. However, Ender remains relevant in our times. These ideas need to be discussed and debated, not left out.