Ender’s Game takes place in the near future and sets the scene that 50 years ago, an alien race called the Formics attacked the Earth and were only defeated by the big commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) putting his life on the line to take down the mothership, rather like Randy Quaid doing the same in Independence Day.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is one of a number of kids raised on war games in a bid to find the chosen few who are then selected as being the ones to deal with these baddies when they return. Ender graduates to Battle School and has his ‘monitor’ removed, an implanted device which tracks his behaviours, supposedly to make him think he’s free of control from those at the top.
Unsurprisingly, you just know from the start that in Battle School, Ender is going to end up the best of the bunch. I was expecting an entertainment piece of space action fluff, but instead I get minimal of what I’ve come to see and instead we get kids who talk to each other in the way that kids never would – in fact, they all talk as if they’ve come out of a stage school and without having spoken to anyone else in the world, ever. There’s also an inference of romantic leanings Ender and Petra Arkanian (Hailee Steinfeld), simply because she’s the token female and he’s the underling. And when it comes to Harrison Ford, as Colonel Graff – Ender’s boss, so to speak – he doesn’t know whether he means to look disgruntled or bored most of the time. He must’ve been paid a tidy sum so you’d think he could crack a genuine smile on occasion.
Oh, and a film full of kids, often trading insults, and not one of them calls him the obvious? Oh, come on! I despair of the youth of today… or, rather, the future.
Ender’s Game feels like it wants to be a modern version of The Last Starfighter, but with none of its wit or charm, and far too much padding. It could easily be cut down to 90 minutes. Okay, so this film stems from a novel which is almost 30 years old – even if it did come out not long after The Last Starfighter‘s release – but I’m a film fan who doesn’t read books and only bases my opinion on what I’ve seen onscreen. In fact, on looking up the novel I see that the original name for the Formics was the “Buggers”. No surprise why that was changed.
The politics in the film applied to its own political times, but could easily be applied to any subsequent war, including the war in Iraq where the government of the day feels it’s right to wipe out many innocent lives just because they think it’s the right thing to do. You certainly don’t get many children’s films with genocide as the topic.
It’s also so aimed at children that it borders on CBBC content at times, especially when drill Sergeant Dap (Nonso Anozie) talks to the recruits, or “launchies” as they’re called.
The only 12-rated content I can see in this is the moment Ender’s monitor removal, which looks a bit painful. The BBFC site also refers to a couple of fights that are in the film between Ender and other lads. You can easily tell which elements will get snipped when it’s shown on TV in years to come.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.