Film Review – Ender’s Game (2013)

Ender's Game poster

Release date: 28th Oct 2013 (US) / 25th Oct 2013 (UK)

Director: Gavin Hood

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin

The original novel, “Ender’s Game” is an extremely popular book, loved by both hardened scifi fans and other readers alike. Needless to say that when it was announced that there was a $100m+ film adaptation coming, a lot of sensitive nerves were hit. To make success even more difficult, there has also been calls for a boycott by LGBT organisations around the world – not for any content in this film, but because the novel’s writer is a particularly horrible homophobe. I discovered this after seeing it and decided to continue writing the review for reasons which I will detail later.

The story revolves around the adolescent character Ender, who is recognised as a child gifted in strategic thinking and is recruited by a desperate military to become a space warfare commander. Ender naturally sees (and plans to win) games on every level of his life – including the military training and the relationships he has with his peers and teachers. A large part of the cast are children but this is by no means a film aimed specifically at a younger audience. The young characters are realistic so will definitely be relatable by younger people, but this is not “Harry Potter in space”.

The acting is good throughout and Ben Kingsley’s performance as the half-Maori war hero Mazer Rackham is particularly memorable. There is a lot of CG (as you would expect from a big-budget film set mainly in space) but thankfully eye-candy never detracts from the story and the director has kept narrative first. The film deals well with some quite powerful themes and by the end it feels like a lot of the spectacle was just a backdrop, which is refreshing. The only real problems I had were with the general rushed pacing and the number of un-ignorable plot holes which rear their heads in the last few minutes.

Overall I would definitely recommend seeing this film. It has a lot of strong characterisation, and Ender’s journey is intriguing without becoming a standard boy-becomes-hero yarn. If you need some reasons not to boycott it, look up the credits – you’ll see a list of great people who worked on the film and aren’t outspoken homophobes.

Pros:

  • Immersive story
  • Strong characterisation
  • Original

Cons:

  • Rushed pacing
  • Ending riddled with plot holes
  • The author of the book on which is it based is a bad man.

Trailer

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