Premise: In an effort to exploit Hollywood for all its young talent of the last few years, I assume a (possibly drugged up) movie producer said in the past year, "I have a teen sci-fi picture I need to make. Bring me that critically acclaimed kid from Hugo, that critically acclaimed kid from True Grit, that critically acclaimed kid from Kings of Summer, and that critically acclaimed little girl who used to be in Little Miss Sunshine. And why don't you find me the critically acclaimed girl from Kick-Ass as well? Huh, she's remaking Carrie? Oh well, nevermind. What? Who? The kid from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Nah... That kid sucks."
Oh, and I guess Ender's Game is also based on some book or something that I assume no one has ever read before? Some dollar store bargain bin read, I think? Maybe a Danielle Steel? It's about a kid who is really good at video games, so he can translate that skill into commanding real life space armies and be a hero to Earth. I tried using that excuse to convince my parents to let me play more video games when I was a kid, but my dad simply replied "You're not fooling me, son, we both know you're awful at video games."
-I guess it has good sci-fi action and special effects. I don't think I'd go as far as to call them great, but I also wouldn't go as far as to call them noticeably bad, either. They were commendable. Lots of dark colors and good contrast.
-Even though he didn't bring a ton to the table, I still enjoy seeing Harrison Ford acting in things. If there was any sort of compliment I could give about his performance, it's that I think he genuinely enjoyed using the particular phone he used to phone it in for Ender's Game. I'm sure it was gold-plated, and had diamond encrusted wiring.
-When the action kicks in, it's usually entertaining. That practice arena in the school looked like it would be super fun to play in real life. It's basically zero G LaserQuest. But with paralysis guns!
-It has kind of a heavy, thought-provoking ending that I wasn't expecting. I liked how it both played off the strength of Ender's talent, and yet totally exploited his reckless genius. It makes you think about the actions of the people in charge, and then makes you wonder if Ender is just being a little crybaby twerp again because he didn't get to do everything his way.
-Seriously, Ender is kind of a whiny little b*tch. I suppose the whole premise behind his character is that he doesn't respect authority, and he has to work his way up the ladder by disregarding orders at every turn, assuming they end up working in his favor (they almost always do). But then when things don't go his way, he tears up and moans about it. Ender is an egotistical nerd who treats everyone he meets like they're his subordinates. YOU WEREN'T EVEN THE FIRST CHOSEN ONE, BRO. You were just Earth's last hope, because they ran out of military funding or time or something, I don't remember.
-It seemed like most of the time, the action would either have way too much going on, or it would be comically minimalist. And they foreshadow the crap out of everything. If something happens during an action scene in the first half, you can likely bet it will be mirrored some way in the second half.
-You know what? I don't like Asa Butterfield. I don't like his dumb face. I don't like his dumb name. I just don't like him.
-I will never understand how in movies where the main enemy species is a giant hive of seemingly dumb insects with no opposable thumbs, who sport giant spikey claws, and have big clunky movements (this goes for Starship Troopers and After Earth as well), can build ultra advanced space crafts with high-powered laser guns and the ability to travel across the entire galaxy? They live in primitive caves without even discovering a concept resembling electricity, yet they have gone as far as to build a million fully functional intergalactic war ships? MAKES SENSE, HUH? [immediately gets ambushed by an ant-powered plasma tank that emerged from under my dishwasher] [renders it useless with a can of RAID]
-I wasn't super anticipating this movie or anything, so I didn't feel like dishing out the extra money for 3D. But you could tell that it had some gimmicky 3D crap in it, like space barf floating towards the camera, which I'm sure got a raucous "Ew grossssssss" out of every 8-year-old who saw this movie. To me, nothing looks lamer than seeing a 2D movie where stuff is obviously flying at the screen for sake of a 3D gag. Shoot for the 2D, the way most people will probably watch it (especially at home), and then use the 3D as an extra benefit whatever it works. I mean, that's how I would do it, just saying.
-I could tell a bunch of the more nonsensical elements that came across as weird to me were probably just included to appease fans of the book. I assume this is also why the entire film felt rushed, and the general structure of the plot was clunky. I understood what was going on, but at times it felt like the film adaptation of the Cliff's Notes version of Ender's Game.
Final Thoughts: Eh, this is kind of forgettable effort on a couple of fronts. It's forgettable as an adult level science fiction film because it's too heavily geared toward appealing to the teen, Hunger Games-type audience it so desperately craves. And conversely, it's forgettable as a teen adventure because it's so heavy-handed and doesn't have Liam Hemsworth taking his shirt off (there goes your 12-17 female demographic, dumb movie producer). Having to watch a dorky teen flail his arms wildly at an impossibly complex hologram computer system while yelling "Now!", does not exactly make for groundbreaking or compelling cinema.
6.5 out of 10
You may not have read the book, but millions have, and to them, this is at least as anticipated a film as LOTR was to the DND nerd Tolkien fans. While the plot may seem old, you need to know that it was relatively new when the book first came out. I won't get into the follow-on books of the series, or the author's issues outside of his books, which was a big story during production of the film... The first reviews I've heard from readers of the book have been positive, saying that it captured the book well. My son read the book and when he saw pre-prod stills and later, the trailers, he told me every damn thing looked exactly as he'd pictured it from his reading. He goes more for art direction than plot, but he loves it even before we go see it. FWIW.
Saw this today. My boys liked it a lot. They liked Ford's portrayal as "authentic to the character".
If I could change anything about the film, it would be to spend more time on Ender's reactions after the big battle. Of course, Card spent another whole book on just that. And studios making action pics don't like too much character introspection without constant "pew,pew, pew". I think the film stayed faithful to the original story about as well as it could.
[Mark Suszko] "I think the film stayed faithful to the original story about as well as it could."
Which was a problem. If ever a novel required a movie in 2 parts this was it. I love the book and the movie was faithful- to the about 60% of the book that the movie covered. Without the other 40% of the book the movie comes off as totally disjointed and the very spiritual and political nature of the story is hardly expressed. Lord of the Rings showed how it should be done, but I guess no one was paying attention. If you read the book the movie will be somewhat satisfying, but I can't imagine anyone who didn't read the book really enjoying this movie. Cloud Atlas showed how you could re-work a novel and make a movie that was actually richer than the source material in less than 3 hours, Ender's Game showed that if you don't re-work the material and you don't have the proper time to spend then being faithful can be the biggest cheat of all.
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf