Ender’s Game Review: Just Another Sci-Fi Flick?

Article by: Adelle DImitui

Photograph from: http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/enders-game-final-poster-405×600.jpg

Note: This review contains spoilers for those that have not watched the movie.

Ender's Game Movie Poster

Ender’s Game is a film adaptation based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card. Set in the future after humans narrowly manage to set back anattack from an alien race called the Formics, the International Military has decided to train genius children to prevent another attack on Earth. The movie is by no means the greatest film of all-time, yet when I exited the cinema, I found myself thinking that it could have been.

To many critics, what constitutes an iconic film is a film’s thought-provoking nature. Ender’s Game does manage to capture this nature, though not effectively as it could have, by tackling deep themes. The film’s central theme is simultaneously hating and loving one’s enemy, as articulated by Card in his novel, “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment, I also love him,” a reference to main character Ender’s attempts to understand the Formic mindset. Additionally, the film deals with the decline of the violent human mindset, demonstrated when Ender is initially characterized as someone who does not hesitate to resort to tactical violence but is shown to be more reluctant as he experiences the guilt that follows acts of violence — think about when Ender unintentionally renders Bonzo comatose in the shower.

The ending of the movie is particularly thought-provoking in itself. After Ender annihilates the Formics, he shuttles into space with a Formic egg, intending to repopulate the Formic species and appease his guilt. Watching this, one cannot help but question the logic behind his actions. Ender destroying millions of Formic lives was a case of history repeating itself, mirroring how the Formics previously destroyed millions of human lives. The races’ role reversal prompts the question… while Ender is undoing his wrong by promising to find the Formics a new home, should he really do so? He should consider how it may be more advantageous to live in guilt than it is to repopulate a species that could potentially seek out revenge.

Moviegoers criticize the film for not being as intellectually stimulating as its source material. I have never read the book, but I do not doubt that this criticism is true. However, I admittedly am slightly lenient towards Ender’s Game. The reason for this is because filmmakers had to cram the book’s packed storyline into 114 minutes. While this may sound like a lot of time, it actually is not for the filmmakers who decided to faithfully stick to the book’s complicated premise and condense it into one shorter film. Having to compress the storyline, the filmmakers were forced to quicken the plot and eliminate the emotional little moments that contribute to what makes the story so intellectually stimulating.

This leads me to the potential of the film. As said before, I do think that the film has the potential to be a great movie. And it really could be… with around an hour more of film time. One of the drawbacks of the film is that it is too fast-paced when setting up the story’s universe. Filmmakers could have spent more time on aspects of the film such as the Dragon Army’s rise to the top of the school’s rankings (this is one of the most inspiring segments of the plot as well as the time viewers can witness the development of Ender’s genius, yet we only see the Dragon Army play two short games) and the simulations that Ender undertook during Command School (more time spent on the simulations would have meant more of an emotional impact on the audience once Ender discovers his graduation simulation is real). These are aspects of the plot that would have provided Ender and secondary characters like Petra and Bernard with more substantial character development. This would have launched Ender’s Game from another-science-fiction-flick territory into iconic-film status, which is not unrealistic considering the already-established fanbase of Card’s novel.

Of course, the reason why Ender’s Game has the potential to be a great film is because it is a good film in the first place. The characters were casted well; Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford, among others, played their parts well. The effects were good; the feeling that the characters were in space was not forced, and much effort must have gone into animating the hundreds of drones surrounding the carriers during Ender’s last simulation.

For the curious, by all means, check out Ender’s Game! I enjoyed it. The thing is, if you are not considering the potential the movie possesses while watching it, I cannot guarantee you will feel that it quite distinguishes itself from other films in the science fiction genre.

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