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ENDER’S GAME (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, 
Gigi Pritzker, Linda McDonough, Robert Chartoff, 
Lynn Hendee, Orson Scott Card, Ed Ulbrich
Screenplay by Gavin Hood
Based on Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, 
Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin
Summit Entertainment / Rated PG-13

As the Oscar contenders are trickling into theaters, Ender’s Game is in a tough position.

I appreciate the wonder that comes when a novel is transformed into a movie, but this production had a great deal of flaws common to the book-to-screen films that are becoming increasingly popular.

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a genius boy in an advanced program to become the next world savior.

He’s bullied, his family history is complicated (but is never really expanded upon), his mentor is gruff and hard, and the world needs to be saved.

But from the moment the film begins, the outcome is obvious. It’s too readable to enjoy.

The only climactic moment for me was during a training session – and that’s because I love teamwork.

Harrison Ford as Colonel Hyrum Graff and Viola Davis as Major Gwen Anderson, are an uncomfortable pair.

Where Davis is overly kind and insistent on tracking emotions, Graff is a caricatured old commander – smirking too often, relentless about the defeat of the enemy, and, it should go without saying, a little deceitful. Though the chemistry between these characters, as well as all of the minor roles, is absent.

The interspersed bits of family history also feel monotonous and out of place. None of the relationships inspire sympathy.

I haven’t read Ender’s Game but the story given onscreen is flat and doesn’t evoke strong emotions one way or another. The performances are rather stale and the Space-setting is impossible to be wondrous in the shadow of Gravity.

What’s difficult about criticizing a production like this, is that I know there is so much more depth in the characters and story in the actual book.

I’m a big Hunger Games fan.

The film version of Hunger Games has similar issues as Ender’s Game – the dialogue feels unnatural and trite, the sub-characters have little to no resonance, and familial plotlines are distracting, if not, completely irrelevant onscreen. BUT I have read Hunger Games, so I really enjoyed the movie, even though I know it wasn’t really a good rendition. I know the story and details well, so I fill in what’s missing automatically.

I couldn’t do that with Ender’s Game. That difference may indicate why this film has mixed reviews. How many positive critics have read the book versus negative?

My hope is that Ender’s fans can appreciate something about this movie that I could not. To me, it was formulaic, predictable, and emotionally flat despite the fact that much of the film is a close up of Ender’s glossy, tearful eyes.

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