“Ender’s Game” is a science fiction film about a young boy who is taken from his family and sent to a special school to be trained as one of the leaders of the military in the war against an alien race. This space opera promises a visual feast that also contains an exciting plot, but does the film live up to expectations?
The movie is based on the award-winning book of the same name by Orson Scott Card. While some mentions of the book are necessary for this review, I judged the film on its own merits. Needless to say, the book was better.
Young child Ender Wiggin is a brilliant young boy who leaves his home and goes to the Battle School. The school is located on space stations where child prodigies are trained to be the leaders in the war against the Formicans, an alien race that nearly wiped out humanity 50 years ago.
From the beginning, the film does a good job of characterizing its titular character, showing Ender as a boy who is almost too smart for his own good, constantly at odds with the plethora of characters that pop up because they resist how brilliant he is compared to them.
The film successfully delivers the idea of Ender’s brains, too. Where other films might just tell us he is smart through a speech delivered by a side character, we are consistently shown examples of Ender’s genius.
This level of characterization sadly is not repeated in the other characters, whose stilted lines and haphazard actions, while well acted, are somewhat jarring.
There are so many characters, each with so little time that you get the impression they are a collection the writer couldn’t bring himself to discard, instead trying to cram as much as he could into each character’s section of the film.
A similar feeling persists through the entire movie. The individual parts are good, but everything is so rushed that nothing is able to really come together as intended. The CGI sequences are certainly spectacular, especially towards the end of the film, but all of them could have benefitted from more screen time.
If certain action parts could have been trimmed down so that the Battle School, and later Commander School, could have had a greater focus, the film would have been better. The two school parts featured a lot of character development and were some of the strongest aspects of the movie.
Sadly, the movie suffers from an incredibly fast, jam-packed pace. Fans of the book series might cry in anguish at the things that didn’t make it to the film. Valentine and Peter’s terrestrial subplot was completely removed, and many of the Battle School fights were condensed into fewer battles.
There’s an obvious sense that as much of the book as possible was put in, and on a whole the film suffers for it. Too much time is spent on scenes and characters that, while certainly interesting, just don’t have the time to be developed, to the detriment of the parts that remain the core of the film.
It’s important to note that, as a whole, the film is still pretty good. Yes, it suffers in some obvious places, but the individual parts are all quite well done. Sadly, they don’t come together to form an impressive whole.
3.5 stars out of 5