“Ender’s Game” as a film is difficult to discuss for fans of the original novel. It falls under the same conundrum that the film adaptation of “Watchmen” fell under, in that the story is more or less directly translated into film, with little to no surprises for fans of the book. For those who never read “Ender’s Game,” this is great, as it provides an easily digestible version of a fantastic, deconstructive story. But will fans of the book feel the same way?
The film tells the tale of Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield, “Hugo”), a young boy who, after displaying extraordinary battle and tactical philosophies, is admitted into Battle School for training for a war against insect-like aliens known as Formics. The story follows Ender as he continues to excel and eventually gain the leadership skills needed to fight the Formics.
The story remains a thoughtful and deconstructive take on the many sci-fi “bug war” tropes present in works such as this. It asks many questions that are left to the audience to answer. Arguments from many different sides are presented on a variety of different issues.
All of this is reinforced by some rather excellent acting. Butterfield’s performance as Ender is smart and strong, as the character is, but like a child, he’s vulnerable. The performance adds dimension to his inner struggles, as do the performances of surrounding characters like Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford, “42”), who in particular is strong and fatherly, but also overzealous at times.
The film is also a visual treat. The Battle School is almost like a character in and of itself, with light cascading all over it’s spacious exterior. Seeing the students fly in zero gravity inside this thing is truly a sight to behold.
Of course, the film isn’t a perfect, word-for-word translation of the novel (a few names and minor plot points were removed for the sake of brevity), but it hits the most important points, and it hits them spot-on. The problem with this is that those who enjoyed the novel won’t find anything new in this version, aside from maybe the spectacle of the effects. For new audiences, this is fantastic, as they can experience an abridged version of an incredible sci-fi tale, but those who love the book will leave the film wanting much more.
As a film adaptation of a well-known novel, however, that’s to be expected. Those who love the book will always stand by it, and that’s fine. They’ll appreciate the visuals and performances. For those looking to experience this work for the first time, however, “Ender’s Game” is a must-see.
Film: Ender’s Game
Release Date: 11/1/2013
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford