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The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Ender’s Game’

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    Summit Entertainment

    I read the science-fiction novel that the film “Ender’s Game” is based on — way back in my glory days of seventh grade at Hillcrest Middle School— and I distinctly recall not liking the book. For whatever reason, 13-year-old me was just not too keen on the plot, the characters or anything in between. I found it an unbearable chore to read. Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

    My recollection of the plot is a bit fuzzy but from what I can recall, the movie seems like an authentic adaptation. In the future, humanity has come into contact with an alien race called the Formic (think of an eight-foot-tall hybrid of an ant and a praying mantis). After two battles between the warring factions, things have been quiet for roughly 50 years. To prepare for the Formics’ inevitable return, the governments of Earth have decided to train their most gifted youth to become war tacticians.

    Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is one of these children. Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) sees Ender as humanity’s final hope, and recommends him to Battle School. The movie, via Colonel Graff, beats you over the head with the notion that Ender is the “one.” This is nothing new to the epic-war-battle movie as there’s almost always a “chosen one” who will lead everybody to the promised land or defeat some evil wizard that’s missing a nose.

    The question doesn’t become so much whether our hero will be victorious, but how they will overcome the distinct and different challenges in their path. Graff makes Ender out to be a social pariah in Battle School, but Ender is able to rally a group of friends that look up to him, including Petra (Hailee Steinfeld).

    Ender excels in Battle School and is promoted to Command School, where he leads simulation games against Formic ships. There are several revelations at the end that I won’t spoil, but they are definitely effective.

    The action sequences are the best in a sci-fi film this year. In Battle School, students are part of armies that face off against one another in a zero gravity arena, with the main goal being to get one of your soldiers through the enemy’s gate.

    There are lasers and neon-lit obstacles, with bodies floating upside-down and right-side-up to make for a visual spectacle. In Command School, Ender’s final simulation against the Formic is a battle that delivers in every way a climactic setpiece should.

    For what has been marketed as your typical big-budget, special effects-laden Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster, “Ender’s Game” has more going for it than you might expect. Butterfield does a fairly remarkable job as the titular character.

    I specifically remember not caring much for the book because most of the characters, specifically Ender, seemed cold and unfeeling. Butterfield is able to find the balance between a calculating, ruthless tactician and a tortured, compassionate soul. He’s a rich character, and Butterfield does him justice. Ford, as the unrelenting Colonel Graff who pushes Ender to his limits, delivers a performance that draws attention to the uncompromising, yet necessary, nature of the military.

    The movie flirts with the moral questions on whether ends justify the means. Sure, Ender is the best chance that the human race has, but should he be subject to physical, mental and emotional abuse? Should a mere child, no matter how capable, be responsible for saving and killing billions? The film raises these questions and comes close to making a powerful point, but ultimately shies away.

    Furthermore, the film really emphasizes the importance of Ender’s relationship with his older siblings, Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) and Valentine (Abigail Breslin). Peter is your typical older brother who beats up on Ender and Valentine is the kind, gentle soul who Ender loves most in this world.

    Both Peter’s violence and Valentine’s nurturing have profound effects on Ender throughout the movie, yet there are only a handful of scenes with Ender and his siblings. If I’m going to buy that these characters are so incredibly paramount, they need to be in the film more.

    The end of “Ender’s Game” strongly hints that there will be a sequel, which I welcome. With “Elysium” failing to live up to its potential and “Star Trek Into Darkness” not taking any risks, “Ender’s Game” might be the best sci-fi film of the year. If only it had plunged more into its weighty themes, it would have been something truly spectacular.

    Grade: B

    Follow Alex Guyton @TDWildcatFilm

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