“Ender’s Game” is a film adaptation of the popular science fiction novel of the same name. It tells the life of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a child of extraordinary intelligence and tactical knowledge.
Fifty years prior to Ender’s birth, Earth was invaded and nearly conquered by the Formic Race, also known as the “Buggers,” an advanced alien species looking to colonize other planets. The battle ravaged the Earth and only through the actions of a brilliant commander were they able to drive the Buggers back to their home.
For the following years, the International Fleet set about monitoring children from birth and enrolling them in rigorous training programs to try to find the next great commander who will defend the human race from the next Bugger invasion.
We begin the film with Ender (Asa Butterfield) in elementary school, and we are given a very brief look into his family life and motivations. Then we watch as he is ripped away from this environment and taken to “Battle School.”
It is there that he meets a group of friends who will follow him throughout his story. The two biggest of these being Petra Arkanian (Hailee Steinfeld) and Bean (Aramis Knight). They become his inner circle and his platoon leaders in the Battle School games.
By necessity, this film’s cast is primarily headlined by child actors, and for the most part they all do a fantastic job. Butterfield did a wonderful job portraying the psychological turmoil that a young child would go through in such a stressful environment. Knight and Steinfeld struggled at times when their dialogue would come off forced, although this is more the fault of the writer than the actors reading the lines.
The adult actors are quite a bit more well-known, with Harrison Ford playing Colonel Graff and Sir Ben Kingsley playing Mazer Rackham. Ford’s performance as the uptight, win-at-all-costs military man was very believable. He did a great job with all the intensity in Graff’s character and toed the line between good guy and bad guy perfectly. Ben Kingsley, on the other hand, has a much smaller role than Ford’s, but still manages to command the screen just as well.
The adaptation stayed, for the most part, very true to the book and covered most of the big scenes that fans of the book wouldn’t have been able to live without. However, due to this, some of the scenes often felt very rushed and glossed over a lot of the very important character development that was the driving factor of the novel.
The family dynamic, which is a huge part of who Ender is as a person, was summarized in a total of 5 minutes. This happens again with the friends, and as a result a lot of the characters just felt like characters of convenience, as if they had no purpose other than to serve Ender’s actions.
As a result of this, someone who has not read the book might wrongly assume that these characters are not very important to the story. In actuality, the book shows that Ender would be nothing without his friends.
Overall, the film was definitely enjoyable, visually stunning, and had an absolutely fantastic soundtrack, but the rushed storyline and struggling dialogue brought this story from excellent to mediocre. As a fan of the entire “Ender” series, I would definitely recommend checking it out, but don’t expect anything phenomenal.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You can appreciate the striking visuals over the rushed inconsistencies in the adapted script.