Ender’s Game (12A)
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford & Sir Ben Kingsley
Running time: 114 min
After an alien race called the Formics attacks Earth, the International Fleet prepare for the next invasion by training the best young children to find the future candidate to lead the International Fleet and fill the shoes of the legendary war hero Mazer Rackham. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is pulled out of his Earth school by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) to join the International Fleet and attend the legendary Battle School, located in Earth orbit.
Having read the novel and recently listened to the audiobook, I was quite nervous going into the big screen adaptation of Ender’s Game knowing the ins and outs of Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi classic.
A story with many layers to it – military conquest, political machinations and sibling rivalry being just three of the intricate subjects touched upon in the 1985 novel – my main worry was not what would be left out of the film (it was inevitable given how dense it is) but which particular bits would be left on the cutting room floor.
There are pros and cons to Hood’s decision to leave out the whole political side of the book involving Peter and Valentine – Ender’s brother and sister. Although we see both characters in the film, including a brief torture/bullying scene involving the former, it was probably wise to remove any references to what both characters get up to on Earth. It would have left the younger members of the audience clueless and the whole thing would have collapsed under the weight of topics explored.
As it is, Hood weaves together a simple enough tale with some hints at the psychology at play when training Ender. My young nine-year-old certainly struggled during these scenes but to be fair they are brief when touched upon.
As for Ender himself, young Butterfield produces an assured performance and definitely encapsulates what I was hoping for from the adaptation. He is a loner but there is an inner steal which thankfully comes to the fore as Ford’s Colonel Graff works on him thoughout training.
As for the aforemention Ford, this was easily my favourite performance of his in quite a while. Unfortunately during this particular film I kept thinking of how cool it will be to see him in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon instead of Battle School!
The supporting cast are also solid with a great role for Sir Ben Kingsley who seems to sleep walk through his performance as Mazer Rackham – that’s certainly not a criticism of Sir Ben, just that he’s so damn good at anything he lends his hand to.
As for the effects – they are superb. I always struggled with imagining how Battle School would look on the big screen but Hood and his creative team have pulled off something wonderful. My only complaint is that we don’t see enough battles between the different groups headed by the likes of Ender and Bonzo, while the finale looks a little cluttered. In particular I found myself squinting at the big screen to see what was going on.
As I’ve said before, Gavin Hood has left a lot out from the book but what he does include is pretty faithful to the source material. Although I found some of the dialogue stilted this was perhaps more a fault of not interpreting what is said in the book rather than have the actors read, word for word, what was written by Card.
All in all however this is a pretty solid adaptation which will keep younger film fans interested and have the older Scott Card followers satisfied as well.
3 out of 5 nerds