Review: Ender’s Game


The minds of youngsters can be like a sponge as they grow up. Before hitting puberty, the human brain is still developing into what it needs to be and some may see it as a chance to teach kids right, wrong and maybe their own agendas. Whether your agenda is good or bad, instilling your beliefs in them can potentially steer them the direction that you wish. It’s something that many of us already know, but according to Ender’s Game, it’s something that can be used to create the next wave of soldiers as well.

Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) is one of the people who believe in this way of transforming the military into something that can protect the world from the attacks like they experienced 50 years ago during the first Formic Invasion. He runs a program that only takes the smartest kids in the world and builds them into soldiers who will have the capabilities to defend mankind when the moment arises. It’s something that plenty of people want to be involved in whether they’re kids or the parents of the kids.

One of the kids that is in the ranks of these intelligent youngsters is a boy named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield). His brother Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) and his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) have been a part of the program before, but both failed to make the cut for various reasons. Graff knows this, but he believes that Ender is different. He sees Ender as the one who is the answer to all of the questions that he and his associates have been attempting to solve for a while now.

While being in the program, Ender is enrolled in “Battle school.” It’s where the best of the best continue their military education as they prepare for battle and hope to be selected. During this time, he learns the lessons needed and meets some different teachers that will help mold him into the warrior that he needs to become has he moves through the ranks. He also runs into power struggles with various authority figures. All of this is difficult for the young man with aspirations of military glory, but it’s all a part of the learning process that can save the world.

Ender’s Game is a movie that seems to be something that’s made for kids on the surface. You see the commercials, maybe the trailers too, and see a bunch of kids who are supposed to be playing a vital part in a movie with a PG-13 rating. When you actually watch the film itself, it actually feels more like a movie for adults when you look at the mood, tone and portions of the subject matter.

Because of this, I don’t know if kids will really be all that into this film. The mood of Ender’s Game can’t be considered anything aside from dark, frigid and serious. There are very few smiles or anything positive or upbeat that you’ll notice. You’re watching the kids on screen, and there’s very little to separate them from the adults that we’ve seen in most other movies. I believe that kids should feel like kids most of the time when you’re talking about film, but that’s not how it is here.

I find it difficult to believe that kids will find these characters to be relatable even if they’re of the same age. Then again, I don’t know if you’d find too many adults who wouldn’t find these guys a bit strange. They talk like adults, the have the attitudes of some of the adults we see in movies, but they’re in these young underdeveloped bodies with voices of people who haven’t even hit puberty. Are kids really interested in watching anything like that? Would adults be intrigued by this? We may be in bigger trouble than I thought if either one of the answers to those questions is yes.

Another thing about Ender’s Game that I doubt kids will be “jumping for joy” for is the pacing of the film. The movie that’s apparently made for children is extremely slow and just adds to what may be seen as something that would be hard for them to digest. This pace works well when your setting everything up, but you can’t keep that pace going through an entire film that’s nearly two hours long. There has to be a pay off much sooner than what we’re given in Ender’s Game.

All of the good that’s done in the earlier portions of this movie comes undone by this and it becomes more and more difficult to give Ender’s Game a passing grade by the time it reaches its climax. Because they wait for so long to finally give us that pay off, the energy never actually picks up as the movie progresses. You’re waiting for that jolt to hit the screen, but it never really comes like it should.

Once you finally get to the end of Ender’s Game, they finally get some spark, but that’s the main problem. They keep all of the twists and turns closed up and hidden until that point and they don’t really give the audience much before that after some of the early portions of the film. Except for the ending, all of this movie feels like a build up to a bigger story, but the truth is the entire movie is only a build up to a sequel.

I’m assuming that the sequel contains all of the stuff that I was anticipating going into Ender’s Game. That would explain why this first film is pretty much all about preparation and setting things up, but it just seems like a hard sell as far as a film is concerned on its own. There needed to be more than what is being showcased in this film, and I think this may indeed do some damage to the entire franchise that they clearly want to sell to the people.

I would think that one needs to be more engaged in some way when going to watch a movie. Because of its lack of drive mixed together with its unrelenting training sessions and lack of identity, Ender’s Game misses the mark in a way that could have been avoided if Gavin Hood and the gang realized they were making a movie that’s supposed to have entertainment value for kids and people who may want to find a legitimate source of mental stimulation. Doing so would have maybe taken more time and effort, but it would have been better than what we get here.

With a good cast overall and an interesting ending, Ender’s Game isn’t a complete failure, but there’s simply not enough in it for me to recommend it or want to see it again. If you’re thinking about seeing it, just know that it’s nothing but training. After that just skip to the end and you’ll have your whole story. That sounds simple right? Well unfortunately, that’s really all Gavin Hood’s Ender’s Game really is. Maybe you should just read the book it’s based on instead.