Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, much before there was Harry Potter, there was Ender’s Game. Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi books created a whole generation of geeks who’ve been waiting for years for the movie version to take shape. After a long and troubled journey the movie has finally hit theaters, to middling results.
Gavin Hood, the director of Tsosi and the first Wolverine has made a very, very cool film, mainly for fans of the books. Had this movie come out a year ago, it’d have been critically acclaimed for its zero G sequences and would probably have been a huge worldwide hit. Thanks to Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity which pushed the bar for zero G sci-fi so high Ender’s Game will be remembered and eventually forgotten as a mildly entertaining movie for kids. This is a little unfair for the film, because it really is one of the better movies of the year and it certainly deserves more eyeballs than it’s going to get.
Ender’s Game is set in a futuristic Earth that has once been attacked by an alien race. Asa Butterfield (from Hugo) stars as Ender, a kid who isn’t very good with interacting with humans but is an unmatched champion of strategy based video games. His skill is put to use by a NASA-like corporation (commandeered by Harrison Ford), which expects a second invasion and is making plans to train young bright minds to combat the aliens. Don’t let that synopsis let you roll your eyes because not only is the execution very mature and smart, but the film contains various themes of choice and character layers seldom seen in blockbuster cinema. Sure, it’s a little like Harry Potter because the majority of the film contains a sci-fi version of Quiddith, but remember, this was probably what inspired Rowling and countless other knockoffs to dole up stories of school kids who become heroes and save the world.
Visually, Ender’s Game is unexpectedly epic -- the CGI is absolutely top-notch and the anti-gravity war room scenes are incredible to behold. It’s fun to see the 12-year-old Ender strategising with his team of misfits and beating kids much older than him. Ender isn’t the ‘prophesised boy’ here but someone who uses his wits and finds his lack of compassion for others as an advantage to advance himself. When was the last time you saw a young protagonist with a grey shade in a mainstream Hollywood movie? The book does delve much deeper into Ender’s mind, and the film sort of wafts over those sections and leaves it to the viewer to fill in those gaps. It doesn’t matter because if you’re read the books, you’ll love the film, and if you haven’t you’ll still call it a cool movie. Watch it in 2D IMAX for best results.