Review: Ender’s Game (2013)

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Cast: , ,
Director: Gavin Hood
Country: USA
Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
Official Website: Here


Editor’s Notes:  Ender’s Game opens wide today, November 1st. For an additional perspective on the film, read Derek’s review (60/100).

At its core, Ender’s Game (2013) posits a highly provocative concept. The idea of sending children to war—a war that they can face while protected behind a video game screen—and using their natural talents and abilities, which are fundamentally lost as one grows older, is quite intriguing. For this reason, one can get fully immersed in the fantasy and even the philosophical extensions that such a story may generate. Ender’s Game is therefore highly alluring and promises to bring viewers much energy, excitement, and entertainment. On the other hand, the relatively poor execution of its themes and narrative tropes somewhat bring down what would otherwise be an exceptional study of space, humanity, and philosophy.

…one can get fully immersed in the fantasy and even the philosophical extensions that such a story may generate. Ender’s Game is therefore highly alluring and promises to bring viewers much energy, excitement, and entertainment.

In the slight future, the earth is at war in space with a group of alien sentient beings. Private organizations are working with the Government to produce special operations units for battling these enemies; these units consist of highly talented children whose quick reflexes, tactical abilities, and strategic intelligence provides the force with a much stronger foundation than adults. Acknowledging this truth, the children go through battle school where they play virtual simulations of the battles they might find in war. The best of these children will become the commander, and use what are essentially their skills for video games to command the ships in war against the Earth’s enemies.

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The film is written essentially as a fantasy coming of age film; therefore, it completely fits the demographic of young video game fanatics. The idea of playing a video game and actually affecting reality is not a new one but one fairly well presented here. Ender (Asa Butterfield) is exceptionally intelligent, gifted, and—though he carries similar violent tendencies as his older brother—he is emotionally corrected by his sister, whom he has much faith in. Because the film follows Ender’s experiences, there are times when the film becomes rather childish. Instead of treating their experiences as a way of exploring humanity and science, the scenes with Ender and his sister or his friends could just as easily be found in a drama about coming of age teenagers.

When the film does choose to bring in moral and sociopolitical issues, it does so quite briefly. Instead of spending time unpacking the urgency of the situation, Ender’s Game immediately thrusts the viewers into this new world. Even the enemy is never given voice, and, towards the end, Ender feels self-effacement when he learns that the battle he just won was not only real but that the enemy hadn’t done anything to provoke his attack. The lack of background about this war and the enemy is certainly an oversight on Hood’s part. As a result, there is too little depth for viewer’s to be able to feel strongly attached to Ender’s feelings here.

 Instead of spending time unpacking the urgency of the situation, Ender’s Game immediately thrusts the viewers into this new world. Even the enemy is never given voice, and, towards the end…

In battle school, Ender climbs up the ladder by demonstrating how tactically brilliant and analytical he is. The way he responds to both circumstances and conversations attests to this. While not liked in the beginning by any group, his leadership skills develop as people begin to recognize his greatness. A quick learner, Ender always finds a way to reach the top of his squad, even when he’s just recently been moved into it. By the time he is ready to be a commander, the security man who once said to him that he would never make commander and that he would never salute to him does exactly that, showing that Ender has the capacity to change people’s minds and preconceived notions.

Throughout the film, the children train in a zero gravity game. This is quite spectacular and the visual effects are amiable. In terms of the camera movement and figure fluidity, the film is a bit like the recent Cuarion film, Gravity (2013); however, in this game, there are too many objects and the setting is much too controlled to elicit a powerful experience. In this game, the children may use guns to freeze their opponents, in order to get themselves in their enemies’ base. The first time that Ender enters the game-space, he and bean shoot each other in the legs for fun. The childlike wonder and the friendship borne from their bonding here is much of how the coming-of-age story unveils.

There is certainly too much CGI in some scenes, and most of it is rather unimpressive; however, the video game aesthetic during fight scenes and even the monitors are highly engaging. Gamers will love this along with the fantasy aspect of controlling reality through video game. In the end, the film won’t satisfy everybody. It is a well narrated story but the themes are not at all well executed. As a result, the film appears to be more accessible to gamers, pre-teens, and teenagers. While the intriguing concept will bring adults into the theaters, the lack of closely dealing with the social, political, and philosophical ramifications of such actions—as found in the book—might leave some dissatisfied. Irrespective of this, the film is quite entertaining through and through, and a wonder to see on the big screen.

[notification type=”star”]70/100 ~ GOOD. Ender’s Game (2013) is highly alluring and promises to bring viewers much energy, excitement, and entertainment. On the other hand, the relatively poor execution of its themes and narrative tropes somewhat bring down what would otherwise be an exceptional study of space, humanity, and philosophy.[/notification]

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About Author

Kamran's areas of interest include formalism, realism & reality, affect, and notions of the aesthetic. With experiences as a TA, an event panelist, a presenter at conferences from UofT to Harvard, and a writer of a self-authored film blog, Kamran would like to share with others his profound interest in the profilmic in the hopes of inspiring, in them, a similar love for film.