Movie Reviews / Reviews

Movie Review: Ender’s Game

 Image © 2013 Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.

Image © 2013 Lionsgate Entertainment Corp.

Rating: 8/10 stars

Recommended for: Young Adult/Adult

Too often, movies receive critical reviews because they are an adaptation of a popular novel and the movie fails to capture all the nuances and plot depth of the novel. “Ender’s Game” is a novel written by Orson Scott Card and first published in 1985. The recently released movie of the same title captures the same plot and thinking puzzles the original novel presented, but with much less detail, despite being a two-hour long movie

“Ender’s Game” is set in a futuristic world where the government is preparing to wage war with an alien race known as the Formics. The battle strategies of the Formics are random and without any earthly equivalent, and the creative thinking necessary to defeat the Formics is found only in children. Ender Wiggin is a child drafted into the war camps with the sole purpose to prepare for war with the Formics. Through physical training and simulated battles, Ender is made ready for war and elevated to the office of commander. With his team of adolescents behind him, Ender triumphs again and again in video game-esque situations over simulated Formics. In the final simulated battle that will determine if Ender and his team are ready for the front lines, Ender sacrifices some members of his space fleet in order to clear the path for a single nuclear to be shot at the Formic home planet—exterminating the alien race and eliminating the threat forever. When the battle is over, it is revealed to Ender that none of the battles were simulated and the war is truly over with his destruction of their planet.

Why do we have to fight wars? It is a question the audience, through Ender, struggles with at the end of the film.The Formics fleet had only attacked earth once, and their motives for attack were ambiguous and never discovered. Would they have attacked again? Was a mass genocide of their species necessary for Earth’s survival? Ender grapples with these questions at the end of his battle. He has been manipulated and used by the government to secure the end they desired. The audience is left to make their own judgments on the use of utilitarian ethics, and especially the use of utilitarian ethics in war. Whether the government was right in using Ender to secure the safety of earth or if their war machinations were wrong, despite what was at stake, is a question intentionally left open by the author and by the makers of the film. The audience might be left feeling frustrated or upset, but they certainly will leave the theater thinking.

In addition to its depth of plot, “Ender’s Game” boasts an all-star cast, including Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, and Ben Kingsley. The acting does not disappoint, especially for the youth of the cast. We are shown the internal conflict and character development of Ender as he struggles to find the medium between the violence of his brother and the compassion of his sister, and the tension is masterfully illustrated by Butterfield. The visual effects add to the depth of the film, giving weight to the scenes originally described by Card. The only place where the effects might be lacking would be in the portrayal of the Formics—their bug-like structure and appearance make them appear more like overgrown termites than an alien species.

“Ender’s Game” was published in the midst of the Cold War, a time where many citizens were questioning the necessity and viability of a war. The plot has not lost any weight in the context of a time fraught with the “war on terror” and the war in Afghanistan. Throughout the ages, war is always the same, and the necessity of battle might be a question we can never fully answer. Whether Ender’s battle was just or unnecessary we may never know, but the effects on him are clear. The guilt of the deaths he has caused weighs heavily on him and it is with that guilt as motivation that Ender sets out at the end of the film to try to redeem himself and right the wrong he feels he has caused.

“Ender’s Game” is a thoroughly interesting and thought-provoking movie well worth the view. Some of the actions scenes might not be suitable for young audiences, and some of the violence might be a bit disturbing for those of more sensitive dispositions. While the dark themes might not be for everyone, the real-life themes in a fictional world are ones worth exploring and discussing after the film has ended and well worth the view time.

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