Movie Reviews

‘Ender's Game’: Morally complex, effects-heavy, but mediocre

By Wang DexianMovies - 06 November 2013 12:00 AM | Updated 08 November 2013

‘Ender's Game’: Morally complex, effects-heavy, but mediocre

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Rating: 3 / 5

Orson Scott Card's sci-fi military classic finally gets to the big screen.

There has been a few stumbles along the way, most notably, a boycott of the film by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in the US, because of  Card's stance and criticism of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Less newsworthy but still worth a chuckle or two has been the film's rather lacklustre marketing campaign, with its odd proclamation of  “It's not a game” for a movie named ‘Ender's Game’.

Now, you can judge for yourself if it is any good.

The plot of the movie takes place in the year 2086. An alien species, the “Formics”, invade Earth.

Badly outnumbered and outgunned, Earth is saved by the heroics of one Mazer Rackham (a heavily face-tattooed Ben Kingsley). 

Ender's Game
Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield are child soldiers in 'Ender's Game'

This emboldens Earth and the International Fleet to train young cadets who are gifted children with keen tactical minds,  to mould them into the next commander to defend the planet against another invasion. 

Young Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is identified by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis), and chosen to be enrolled into this training school, becoming the next great military hope. 

Read also: 'Ender's Game' explores complexity of youth, isolation and warfare 

While the film might revolve around youngsters, it deals with bleak material that revolves completely around war. 

Many of the film's best moments are merely exchanges between characters, conversations that are deep in thought, exploring the morally grey areas that surface during war.

In many ways, ‘Ender's Game’ pits the duality of humanity against each other and can be reflected clearly in Ender's psyche throughout the movie, as his reluctance to kill goes up against his training.

This sci-fi epic boasts some impressive visuals, although most of the designs for the costumes and weapons tend to be quite generic.

Ben Kingsley puts his game face on in 'Ender's Game'

In one scene, Ender and other cadets go into simulation battle in a zero-gravity environment and watching them float around shooting each other with high-tech freeze guns is almost worth the ticket price.

Yet, the film is not all that entertaining even if the acting was decent as well. There's barely a hint of humour and the serious tone doesn't really mesh well with the colourful visuals.

It would seem that the thought-provoking issues presented are better suited for the page than the screen, where the viewer would have time to pause and think. 

In a world where drone strikes are prevalent and war rages in many corners of the world, ‘Ender's Game’ is still very relevant for a book that was written in the 1980s. It just may not be for everyone.

‘Ender’s Game’ opens in cinemas 7 November