Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is one of those books that’s constantly plagued me. No matter which bookstore I’ve gone into, it’s always been that one novel on the shelves that’s been there taunting me to read it. Alas, I never got around to it but I suppose Ender’s Game the movie is a suitable stand-in.
Directed by Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Rendition), Ender’s Game is terrific sci-fi that’s populated by an all-star cast, strong visuals and an economic script which gets the job done but doesn’t push the envelope. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) plays Ender, a child genius recruited by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) to join a rigorous program aimed at training Earth’s brightest kids to be future military leaders in humanity’s war against bug-like aliens called Formics.
As part of this training the kids form teams and battle each other in a zero-gravity arena, bringing to mind a futuristic version of paintball shooting. These are fun sequences, and are used to highlight Ender’s sharp mind and keen strategic intuition. He’s certainly a very different character from your Harry Potters and Percy Jacksons, being highly astute and fully aware of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it – and vividly realised by the highly talented Butterfield.
Yet Graff’s training techniques are morally questionable – his chief concern is creating the best commander possible via whatever backhanded means necessary. All that matters to him is that the Formics are defeated for all time. To Graff, the way in which they’re defeated is of no consequence, but the way we do things means the world to Ender. This is a key theme in the movie, and its exploration here is impactful.
The story is rounded out by a strong supporting cast, featuring the likes of Academy Award nominee Viola Davis (The Help) as Graff’s ethically-minded counterpart as well as Sir Ben Kingsley in a key role doing his best Kiwi accent. The result is an engaging sci-fi experience with exciting action that also really does have something important to say about morality. It concludes well, with a powerful finale that closes Ender’s Game on a high note and allows it to stand on its own as an accomplished albeit not groundbreaking piece of cinema.
Strong action setpieces and meaningful morals make Ender’s Game worth a visit.