Review: ENDER'S GAME (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Review: ENDER'S GAME (2013)

Instead of sophisticated and visionary, Gavin Hood's big screen version of ENDER'S GAME feels mostly shallow and lacklustre.

Once deemed "unfilmable" by author Orson Scott Card because "everything takes place in Ender's head", the long-awaited adaptation of ENDER'S GAME has finally made its way to the big screen. The novel was originally published in 1985, which went on to win two coveted awards: Nebula Award (1985) and Hugo Award (1986). That was certainly an astounding feat. However, writer-director Gavin Hood's big screen version has unfortunately simplified the complexity of the novel and opted for a typical Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster instead.

Set in the late of 21st century, an all-out attack between mankind and alien species known as the Formics, had almost caused Earth into near extermination. But thanks to a brave man named Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), the Formics are defeated and mankind is preserved. However, the International Fleet, led by Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford), is convinced that the Formics will retaliate in a matter of time. So Graff decides to launch a program to train the best and brightest young children for retaliation against the Formics. Enter 14-year-old Ender (Asa Butterfield), who impresses Graff and colleague Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) for his unique capability and intelligence. Graff proceeds on recruiting him to International Fleet's Battle School. Once there, Ender is required to compete against other children in a series of tactical-battle simulations and passes the test.
Visually speaking, ENDER'S GAME has plenty of spectacular special effects and high production values worth watching for. I'm particularly enjoyed the way how Ender uses his tactical prowess in a series of zero-gravity training inside the Battle Room to defeat his opponents.

Acting-wise, Asa Butterfield gives a soulful performance as Ender. Meanwhile, Harrison Ford is perfectly typecast as the gruff Colonel Hyrum Graff.

The flashback of the aerial attack against the Formics and the epic showdown in the finale are both stunning.

While Butterfield and Ford manage to do their best here, it's unfortunate the rest of the actors are underutilized. Viola Davis is wasted in what would be a strong support as the empathetic Major Gwen Anderson and even so for Abigail Breslin, who is just as forgettable as Ender's sister, Valentine. However, Ben Kingsley fares the worst in his thankless performance as Mazer Rackham whose distracting facial tattoos seems to be doing the acting than he does.

Then there's Gavin Hood, who will be remembered for botching the 2009's X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, doesn't have that visionary skill (say, someone like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg or J.J. Abrams) to execute an ambitious sci-fi epic like ENDER'S GAME. In fact, his adapted screenplay is weak. Throughout the movie, we never really get to feel any sense of danger that Ender or even his fellow army during the battle. Even the way how Ender progresses from level to level feels too simplified and rushed for the sake to get to the point. As for the theme of bullying, retailiation and the consequences of war, Hood doesn't delve deeper into the subject but rather presented them in a disappointingly surface value.

ENDER'S GAME could have been a great potential of becoming the next big sci-fi franchise. However, what we have here instead is a huge, missed opportunity.

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