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Ender’s Game (2013) Movie Review

November 2, 2013

With all the talk about boycotting this film I feel it is necessary to address some concerns from the outset. Some suggested that anyone who supports gay rights should avoid the film because Orson Scott Card, the author of the original novel, said some seriously offensive things about gay people. Then again, he is an old Mormon and a member of a church that still holds beliefs about gay people that I find offensive. If that is enough for you to pass on the film or the book that is your choice. I prefer to judge entertainment for the quality of the finished product, not the views of the creators. In the book and to a lesser extent in the film there are some positive themes that I think outweigh any problems with the author. Lionsgate has also said that Card had no involvement with the creation of the film. Beyond the initial money from the sale of the rights and any profits from additional book sales, the sales of tickets won’t give more money to Card.

Unlike most reviews, I listened to the audiobook of the source material close to the release of the film. So there will be some spoilers in this review of both the plot of the film and plot elements left out from the book.

“Ender’s Game” moves at a quick pace as it blazes through the plot and yet barely makes it under two hours. Though the book describes multiple battles Ender fights with each team in battle school, we only see a small number of fights on screen. The same can be said for the battles at command school. Though I will expand later on certain plot elements I was sad to see left out, I think the writers did a solid job packing in everything truly important and retaining the essence of the story. The big moral questions behind it still come forward at the end and the characters still develop and mature, even if it does feel a bit rushed.

Steve Jablonsky wrote a fairly typical epic score with synth elements that never gives us a solid theme or elevates the film beyond what is on screen. I expect most people would have a hard time distinguishing the music from similar recent film scores other than most of the ones it mimics have at least some originality. Despite its flaws, the music serves its purpose of telling the audience that they are about to watch something epic and there are some interesting musical ideas for the enemy.

The two biggest draws for the film are Asa Butterfield (Ender) and Harrison Ford (Colonel Graff) Butterfield makes a fantastic Ender and truly shines throughout the film. He is quite convincing as the cold, calculating battle commander. Harrison Ford does a good job as well though it isn’t particularly noteworthy. The supporting cast isn’t given much time on screen but they are good as well.

So what exactly is missing from the film? One of my favorite parts of the book was when Valentine and Peter (Ender’s siblings) become involved in the big political debates of the time, arguing over the role the Hegemon should have in the world and in the universe. We see Peter briefly at the beginning and Valentine is only seen slightly more. The relationships Ender develops with his squad is also seriously cut short. The strength of their bond is implied well enough but I would have liked to have seen it fleshed out more on screen. We also miss out on a lot of Ender’s battles with Dragon army. While in the book he engages in battle after battle, gradually increasing in difficulty, here we get one battle with Dragon army.

I recognize studio’s reluctance to make a film longer than 2 hours, especially with something as unproven as Ender’s Game, but it could have been a much more thought-provoking film if some of these ideas had somehow been added in. If you want some quick thrills, the film is a serviceable adaptation. If you want to enjoy a more intellectual take on the story, go read the novel, or listen to the audiobook. I doubt the executives will add in any of the politics in any future films so the only way to enjoy it is in the book.


From → Sci-fi

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