“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.”
I did not know what to expect when I sat down and watched Gavin Hood’s glossy take on Orson Scott card’s popular novel of the same name. Fortunately, not only is the talented cast’s portrayal of duelling cadets a massive highlight, but Hood’s grasp of the genre is ultimately very appealing. As long as the viewer is willing to enjoy some recognisable movie tropes without feeling short-changed, then most people will be able to sit back and soak up not just the young trainees’ excellent efforts, but will also bask in Ford’s heavy handed determinism and Kingsley’s stalwart delivery.
After a failed alien invasion on Earth fifty years ago by a species known as the Formics, Harrison Ford plays Colonel Hyrum Graff, the leader of the recruitment drive to hand pick and engineer future commanders in preparation for the pending second wave. Asa Butterfield plays young cadet Ender Wiggin, who Graff believes is the future leader of Earth’s resistance. Hailee Steinfeld plays one of the only female roles as she did in the Cohen Bothers’ True Grit, delivering another great performance with one of the less interesting scripts. But despite some rather predictable plot lines, it is Butterfield’s unexpected wit, enthusiasm and moody portrayal that steals the show, a performance that would perhaps suit a young anti-hero role in the upcoming Star Wars movies.
Most of the film is spent on an orbiting boot camp, where teams of young promising commanders, battle it out in a strange sci-fi version of Quidditch. In fact, most of the film takes place during this premise, and if it was not for the engrossing albeit predictable development of Ender himself, the movie could have become stale. But is doesn’t. Instead, the intelligent use of graphics and humour in the right places, ensures the viewer will stay around to witness the fairly original and bleak ending, both in terms of script and cinematography.
Ender’s Game is without doubt a cheesy flick. But instead of the creamy cheese of Pacific Rim, the movie concentrates more on the characters, and ends up with a story that will wrap most eighties kids in memory foam as they sit back and enjoy some great Last Starfighter graphics mixed with all the modern trimmings. This makes Ender’s Game not just something to see, but something to treasure as well.
Shapstik Verdict: Regardless of whether you feel Ender’s Game is a “kids” movie or not, its terrific imagery and adherence to the science-fiction ideal in the face of predictability and cliché, makes it worth a watch and a real hidden gem in 2013. 7/10