This weekend I went to see Ender’s Game in the cinema. But before launching into my review I have to announce an interest as I have read Orson Scott Card’s book that the movie is based on at least a couple of times. On the subject of the book I would say it is one of the most accessible works of science fiction out there. I would strongly recommend you pick up a copy if you have not already.
But back to the movie. I enjoyed it. Very much. In fact immensely. I’m very impressed with what they did. It’s very faithful to the book and they managed to cram in all the important stuff. That’s a definite ‘buy the blu ray on day of release’ for me.
In summary it is the future, around fifty years after an alien species called the Formics invaded earth and were repulsed by the semi-mythical pilot Mazer Rackham, but only after great loss of life. A nice detail is the footage of the battle that is endlessly played on tv and is probably as familiar to the people of this future as the Apollo 11 footage, the Zapruder film or the 9/11 images are to us.
After this close call Humanity has taken a “never again” approach and has cooperated to create the International Fleet to prevent another invasion. In order to get military commanders who can think outside the box and effectively fight in zero gravity they recruit promising young children and send them up to Battle School, a space station in orbit of Earth where teams of children fight zero G battles in a competitive environment.
Harrison’s Ford’s character Hyrum Graff has been looking for the specific individual who will be able to lead the fleet in its upcoming engagements with the Formics and he thinks that Andrew “Ender” Wiggen is the one.
The movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of the book. There are a number of significant details that have been included, for example Ender is a Third, meaning a family’s third child in a world where population controls require a couple to get permission to have more than two children.
In Ender’s case he follows his older brother Peter and sister Valentine. As in the book both siblings were considered for Battle School but Peter was deemed to aggressive and Valentine too compassionate. The hope is that Ender will have the right balance between the extremes.
An important early scene from the book is present in the movie where Ender is bullied and is forced to fight back. He literally kicks his tormentor when he is down, repeatedly. Later Ender is asked why he did his. He says it was because he wanted to win that fight but also all the future fights as well.
By the way my mind was slightly blown to see Abigail Breslin, the little girl in Little Miss Sunshine, has turned into a lovely young woman. It cant be that many years since that movie was out, can it? She has a small but important part as Ender’s sister Valentine and I’m glad they included that character as she’s very important in the books. In many ways Ender is fighting to specifically save her as she represents that qualities of humanity that he wants to save.
Another surprise inclusion from the book is the Mind Game, a game that the battle school recruits have on their tablet devices. On the face of it the game is there for recruits to solve puzzles but is actually being monitored to see what choices they make. When I saw that had been included I knew that these filmmakers were taking the trouble to get this movie right.
One thing the movie could not exclude are the Battle Room zero-G battles. That was probably one of the biggest challenges the filmmakers faced and they came out with something outstanding. My only criticism here was that they could not include all the battles from the book and instead they focus on just two of them, albeit two of the most important ones. I found them exhilarating to watch. The director Gavin Hood should be proud of his achievement here.
Later in the movie we go to Command School where we see space battles recreated in a three-dimensional surround environment. The amount of detail included is incredible and deserves to be watched on the big screen.
I must include a word about young Asa Butterfield as Ender. His performance has to carry the movie and he does very well, particularly in the emotional scenes towards the end of the movie.
In summary Ender’s Game is one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen this year. Strongly recommended.