I will start by saying that if you read the book, you will not be disappointed by the movie. This is one of the few times that I have ever admitted this. The movie stays very close to the central story of the book (probably because Orson Scott Card, the author, was one of the producers for the movie), and he brings the book to life in ways that I personally didn’t imagine before. The story, simply put, is about a boy. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is one of many genius children who have been selected to join in an elite, military program. Earth was attacked, many years in the past, by a race of bugs named the Formics. In preparation for another war with these insect extraterrestrials, the nations of the world have unified and created a military program to train young, malleable minds to be the best military commanders possible. Ender is one of those chosen children. The movie sees him through the end of his training on the planet and onto the “Battle School,” a unique space station orbiting the planet where these genius children compete in mock battles in order to win the great promotion to “Command School.” Here, Ender demonstrates his intelligence in a series of battles and makes his way onto Command School, where he hopes to defend the human race from ever being attacked by the Formics again.
All the while, Ender is constantly wrestling with himself. He has two siblings, which has been outlawed except under special circumstances set by the powers that be. As “a third,” he is an outcast on Earth. In addition to this, his emotional identity is a sort of balance between his two siblings. His brother, Peter, failed Battle School training because he was too violent. His sister, Valentine, also failed, but for the opposite reason: She was too compassionate. Throughout the movie, Ender struggles with the fear of becoming violent like his brother, but also with the fear of becoming too compassionate and, as such, becoming weak. In the end, Ender finds that this balance may be his downfall, but that in breaking it, he may doom many others instead. Ender constantly fights to find a true balance that can aid everyone.
The movie itself has top-of-the-line special effects and headlining actors such as Harrison Ford (Colonel Graff) and Ben Kingsley (Mazer Rackham). It also introduces many younger actors such as Asa Butterfield (Ender Wiggin) and Hailee Steinfield (Petra). It is a unique combination of acting talent. That being said, one of the chief complaints about the movie was that Asa Butterfield creates a very rigid and mechanical main character. Sometimes, this does make him hard to watch, but it portrays Ender perfectly as he is seen in the books: strong, intelligent, and constantly calculating, with a knowing command of the situation. Another small complaint was that the backstory is not completely explained. It is hard to relate to this insect species that affects the world so much, or even understand how they communicate, which is more or less not explained in the movie. They retain a mysterious aura that can be aggravating to the curious, as not all the questions about them are answered as they are in the book. The movie also uses them and its phenomenal special effects to create some very odd and unsettling landscapes at times. The zero gravity battle room, the sweeping spires of the Formic home world, the odd and disturbing fantasyland portrayed in Ender’s video game, and even the space age cars definitely set the watcher apart from reality. All of these make for a serious sci-fi world that may not tailor to everyone, namely those looking for a funny movie. However, it does not detract from the entertainment value of the movie at all. The story has its moments of humor, many periods of clever revelations, heartfelt emotional scenes, and fast-paced action sequences.
As a word to the wise, the movie also follows its PG-13 rating closely, with a couple of potentially unsettling moments which do not, fortunately, show exposed flesh or even a lot of blood, but involve physiological concepts that are not pleasantly imagined.
Overall, the movie is an excellent experience, and again, nowhere near a disappointment to someone who read the book. My one suggestion: if you like an interesting and intelligent story, or you like science fiction, definitely watch it. If you don’t, give it a chance. The acting, the action, and the special effects may yet grab you and bring you in to enjoying this excellent movie.
One lucky winner will receive a DVD copy of Ender’s Game (a $29.95 value)! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Monday, February 24, 2014.
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