Ender’s Game arrived on bookshelves from (recently controversial) author Orson Scott Card decades ago, and witnessing its jump to the silver screen, one has to pause and marvel at the foresightedness of the novel. From the use of email in his story to the idea of preemptive war to push peace, Card’s world is quite prophetic -- and one heck of a pulse-pounder at that.
And right off the bat, we must also say to all those fans of the book, writer-director Gavin Hood does an impeccable job of bringing the best parts of the book to life.
Asa Butterfield is Ender Wiggin, the third child in his family to try to make it to an elite training program that takes young, raw talent and tries to mold them into space battlefield commanders. See, the Earth was attacked by aliens decades before our story starts, and they took us to the brink of extinction. But we fought back and drove the enemy away, only to live the next several dozen years absolutely sure they would return for more death and destruction.
It is determined that the video game-savvy youth are our best hope of defeating this enemy so the governments of the globe spend years and billions building training facilities and weapon systems geared at turning our youngest into our mightiest.
Ender shows promise, so believes Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) -- although his lead counsel (Viola Davis) believes he is pushing him too hard and thinks it may be a mistake to put all his faith in this one cadet.
Our young hero is put through a series of games, tests, classes and endless studies and challenges with his fellow military trainees (including a stellar Hailee Steinfeld as Petra Arkanian). All are meant to test the mettle of these boys and girls because the leaders of the world only see a countdown clock to an absolute certain war.
Hood has crafted a world that took him almost four years to create and it shows on every frame. The attention to detail is impeccable and that includes an equal salute to its production design and casting. Ford has said that he would wait for the right part in the right movie to return to space for the first time since Star Wars. And he has it on both fronts with Ender’s Game. He is firm, loyal, fatherly, but in the end… all he truly cares about is the survival of the human race. And he firmly believes that Wiggin is “the one.”
Davis is also spectacular, and so is Ben Kingsley… although to tell you who he plays would be a huge spoiler! Both bring gravitas to the film that gives it credence beyond what some might simply call a young adult story.
And then there is Butterfield. This film works or fails based on how he handles the uncanny arc of a character going from impish and intelligent boy to fierce commander who can order actions in war that could claim thousands of lives.
Our Ender’s Game review can firmly state that this is a “young adult” novel brought to the big screen that truly has multigenerational appeal. Mothers, sons, fathers and daughters will all have plenty to talk about on the ride home as the film is the rare cinematic experience that can be all things to all people. And the fact that it is unrelenting in its building suspense does not hurt things either.