Ender’s Game (2013) Movie Review

Ender’s Game is a new sci-fi movie based on the novel by Orson Scott Card.  The novel was hugely popular and certainly set high expectations for the film.  The basic premise of the story is that humans barely survived an alien attack 50 years ago, so they are now searching among brilliant children for their next commander.  The trailer shows big lasers shooting through space, but Ender’s Game is not a traditional science fiction and instead poses more philosophical questions than mindless shooting.

To appreciate the movie, the story is really quite tough to adapt to the big screen.  The protagonist is Ender Wiggins, who is a genius and has been hand picked by Colonel Graff as a possible and likely candidate to become the commander of the International Fleet.  The book plays the story through the eyes of Ender and justifies his every action.  The movie, naturally, was unable to capture all of the detail, however they have managed to hint at Ender’s brilliance through a few key scenes and dialogue.


The movie was also quite rushed.  Ender’s Game relied heavily on character development and buildup.  Ender begins his journey on Earth, then transfers to Battle School then Command School.  In each of these, he meets new friends, develops new ideas and tactics and all throughout develops new dimensions as a character.  The movie had limited time to do all that and it is just a shame to see Ender work his way up to the top of his class in a matter of minutes in the film as opposed to all the planning and scheming in the novel.  I do appreciate the fact that the movie tried to skip as little of it as possible and even threw in a few bonuses for people familiar with the novel.  They also did a great job (considering what they had to work with) in trying to recreate the world in as little explanation as possible.  There was very little explicitly explained or even awkwardly hinted at, instead the movie managed to explain a good deal through good dialogue and acting.


In terms of the visuals, the big effects were limited to a few battle scenes and the scale was enormous.  While a few critics ragged on the sterility of the scenes and even I personally felt that the fleet was far too organized in the chaos of battle, this was an obvious choice in style.  I think that a quick run through of the events in the movie will more than explain the choice made.  Nevertheless, this is a big sci-fi movie without the usual over the top visual effects which is disappointing.  The movie more than makes up for it with great sound and decent music.  I also felt that the actors were quite good.


All in all, I think that Ender’s Game is a valiant effort to put a classic novel into a new format.  Unfortunately it isn’t getting the rave reviews because it couldn’t tailor itself to either the people who’ve read the book, nor the people who haven’t.  The movie rushed through a lot of the buildup that occurred in the books and really didn’t do justice to the book.  It also rushed through explanations which robbed the newcomers the joy of understanding the intricacies of the story.  They really should have broken up the movie into a trilogy and made use of the vast amount of material in the rest of Orson Scott Card’s books.  Despite all this, I felt that the movie wasn’t nearly as bad as some reviews made it out to be.  In trying to deliver a great experience to both crowds, they failed to truly wow either of them, but they did manage to fit in enough to make an interesting and thoughtful movie for both of them.  No, Ender’s Game does not live up to the book, and I feel that this has caused some whiplash in the reviews.  Evaluated on its own, Ender’s Game is an above average movie that deserves a look.

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