06 March 2014

Movie Review: Ender's Game by Gavin Hood

Title: Ender's Game
Director(s): Gavin Hood
Genre(s): Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Rating: PG-13
Release Date (USA): November 1, 2013
Fifty years ago an alien force known as the Formics attacked Earth. Tens of millions died. It was only through the sacrifice of our greatest commander that we avoided total annihilation. We've been preparing for them to come back ever since. The International Fleet decided that the world's smartest children are the planet's best hope. Raised on war games, their decisions are intuitive, decisive, fearless. I am one of those recruits." -Ender Wiggin
1985 was a good year --- not only was I born but this was the publishing year of what many call the original YA dystopia. Ender's Game as a film had a lot of work to do from the outset. It not only had to overcome years of developmental hell but had to contend with severe controversy surrounding the Orson Scott Card's questionable ideals as well as high expectations from the series' legion of die-hard fans. Now, I haven't ever read the books so I had no basis of comparison when going into the film but I did have high hopes. Based on the trailer, the movie looked awesome! Unfortunately, for me, Ender's Game did not defy the odds.

The story follows Ender Wiggin, a newly recruited member of a battle school designed to train young children to fight a war against the alien forces that attacked Earth years prior. Ender finds himself alienated and must overcome incredible pressure from everyone, and most of all, from himself, in order to lead the team to victory.

I can't really say if the plot remains faithful to Card's original novel, but I did enjoy the idea of it. For the time it was written, it was probably uniquely original, but being late to the game, I can't say I haven't already seen it all before. Despite the predictability of the storyline, my biggest gripe was that it felt like key elements were missing --- not plot holes exactly, just like critical scenes had been cut at the last minute, like there were gaps in important information. Instead, it relies heavily on these grand info dumps from Wiggin via the narration and the character development and storyline suffer because of this. Another big problem I had was with the story's overall cohesiveness, in that there is none. The whole movie feels as though it takes place in the matter of a week and because of this, there's very little depth. I lost track of time watching it, probably because I was doing other things other than watching it. In short, I just didn't care.

You would think that the star-studded cast (Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis & Abigail Breslin) would be enough to save this drowning movie, but alas, such was not the case. Breslin has but a minor role and Davis, arguably the best in her role, isn't featured nearly enough to leave a lasting impression. Ford and Kingsley deliver passable performances, but they hardly shine. And newcomer Asa Butterfield is wooden and stiff in his role as Ender. I don't know if the character in the book is this way, but he's incredibly unrelatable in the film. Things come to him far too easily and I had no idea why he was appointed to be the leader of the group. Nothing he said or did really gave me a good feeling about him. Honestly, I didn't care about a single one of the characters and if you don't care then what's the point? 

I guess the look and feel of the film were about the only things I think the filmmakers got right. The set and cinematography were spot-on, everything I imagined from the spacey, sci-fi setting. I want to play in that Battle Room. So. Freaking. Amazing. But other than that, Ender's Game was an utter fail as a stand alone movie. If it's done anything positive, it's only made me want to read the book that much more.

Summary Prognosis
All in all, I was less than impressed with Ender's Game. Though it was a visually stunning movie, I found it to be predictable, full of wooden performances and too hard to comprehend. Since I haven't read the book version, I have no basis of comparison so I'll let the rest of you be the judge of that one. Overall, it was a majour letdown for me. 

Rating: ★★½  

Watch It: Amazon | Target
Discuss It: IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes
View the Trailer: 


  1. I have not read this book either, but I have watched the movie recently. It was very visually pleasing and I totally want to play that anti-gravity laser tag. :) Even though most of the story was pretty predictable (even though I had a feeling) I didn't see the big twist near the end. Although I agree that Ender was pretty flat as an actor I'm thinking it may be because of his character, but I don't know for sure since I have not read the book. I did enjoy the movie more than you, I would have given it 3.5 stars probably, but I did have a big issue with the timing of everything, I really had no sense of how much time had passed from the beginning to the end of the movie and that was frustrating. Great review as always! Sorry this one was a miss for you.

    1. I feel like if I had read this one years ago, I would've loved it. Unfortunately, there weren't many surprises for me and I think I could've been okay with that but I just couldn't get down with the acting. Oh well, you can't win em' all. Maybe I'll have better luck with the book.

  2. I agree it's not a great standalone movie, but it is a very nice companion movie. If you've read the book, the movie is a nice way to visualize some moments and characters, but while the movie is actually pretty true to the plot, its paced is rushed and leaves a lot of story out. I also think the ending is a lot more shocking if you read the book than if you're just watching the movie.

    1. Makes me wish (in this case) that maybe I would've read the book before seeing the movie. There's always next time.


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