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.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and is flawless with a high amount of detail on view, looking best during the space battle scenes on my Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV.
The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and is fine, but only really branches with some good use of rear directional sounds in the training zone, Ender’s computer games and the space battles.
The extras are as follows and all in HD:
- The Making of Ender’s Game (49:31): Split into eight sections, we start with Journey to the Big Screen where we learn one of the producers’ sons read the book when he was seven and that was the genesis of this project.
The other segments are as follows, and most are self-explanatory as to what you can expect: Recruiting the Troops (casting), Ender in Zero-G, Battle School Revealed, The Mind Game (one of Ender’s video games which tests his behaviours), Behind Enemy Lines (digital special effects), The Alien World and Ender’s Mission Complete (a general summing up of the film).
- Deleted Scenes (11:09): There are six scenes here, but nothing that particularly needs to go back in the film, especially since it needs tightening up anyway, but worth a look as extras. They also each have an optional director’s commentary from Gavin Hood.
- Audio commentaries: One from director Gavin Hood and the other from producers Roberto Orci and Gigi Pritzker.
The menu features clips from the film playing to a small piece of the incidental music. There are subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired and, thankfully, Entertainment One do what most distributors fail to do, and that’s to provide a decent number of chapters. There are 20 here across the 114-minute running time.
Alas, what’s not good is that Entertainment One have stuck trailers for other films BEFORE the main menu, as if we’re still in the days of rental video. This is what the extras menu is for. As such, I shall not be listing them here, but they are quickly skipped. Oh, as is an advert for a chocolate bar, for crying out loud.
Running time: 114 minutes
Studio: Entertainment One
Released: March 10th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Redcode RAW (5K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Gavin Hood
Producers: Orson Scott Card, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, Alex Kurtzman, Linda McDonough, Roberto Orci, Gigi Pritzker and Ed Ulbrich
Screenplay: Gavin Hood (based on the novel by Orson Scott Card)
Music: Steve Jablonsky
Ender Wiggin: Asa Butterfield
Colonel Graff: Harrison Ford
Petra Arkanian: Hailee Steinfeld
Valentine Wiggin: Abigail Breslin
Mazer Rackham: Ben Kingsley
Major Gwen Anderson: Viola Davis
Bean: Aramis Knight
Alai: Suraj Partha
Bonzo Madrid: Moises Arias
Dink Meeker: Khylin Rhambo
Peter Wiggin: Jimmy ‘Jax’ Pinchak
Sergeant Dap: Nonso Anozie
Bernard: Conor Carroll
Giant: Gavin Hood
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.
| 1 | 2 |