reviewed by Tom-Tom
“Ender’s Game” and its various sequels are books I’ve not read. My hardcore Sci-Fi pals in college all raved about Orson Scott Card’s series but I had just discovered James Ellroy and J.R.R. Tolkien (a bit late I know) and drowned myself in the L.A. Quartet and Middle Earth. Needless to say, I had no time nor wish to start a Sci-Fi series by a guy I had never heard of. At the beginning of this film we meet a lanky dark haired youth with piercing blue eyes dueling a larger kid using a tablet playing some sort of video game. Harrison Ford and Viola Davis are providing commentary for what’s going while assessing the skill of the skinny boy. Along the corse of the film, this gets pretty annoying. One of the great things about film and book greats as Darth Vader, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Snape, Nick Fury, and so on is that you don’t know what they’re thinking. You can only guess at what their motives are for their unusual and seemingly (more often than not intentionally) cruel ways or mysterious decisions and that itself is part of the sympathy we feel for Luke, Bilbo, Frodo, Harry, Captain America and so on. We’re as much in the dark as they are. Not here, though.
There have been plenty of films made from young adult novels into well acted films such as most of the Harry Potter franchise, the Maze Runner, and the Hunger Game franchise. Even without these means of comparison, the acting chops on the youths here leave much to be desired. The presence of acting ability lends an authenticity to any picture. The absence thereof lends a campiness or innocence, depending the degree of your indulgence. There is much talk of leadership and what qualifies a person to lead. There is a cool zero gravity room in which war games are played much like laser tag. The acting and fighting abilities of the child actors increase as Ender gets promoted after mastering a tablet app. Harrison Ford as Commander Graff seems to have nothing more to do than to make note of Ender’s progress or lack thereof. I have to admit that the blue-eyed skinny kid started to grow on me after he finds his way. I can see the appeal to teenage boys full of angst worried about the violence inside them and who they really are. It’s a coming of age story with all eyes on our hero. Personally, I like my heroes with flaws. Harry Potter has his temper, Luke Skywalker has impatience, Captain America is naïve, Hobbits are, well hobbits. All the other characters in “Ender’s Game” just seem to compliment our hero and send him up the chain of command. There’s no real struggle. Any one skill he doesn’t know is mastered in about 3 minutes of screen time with the assistance of the many eager helpers to see him meet his goals. There is a character building sequence towards the end which almost saves the film echoing the severity of war and reality of what the war games set out to do. It redeems the character of Ender a bit but has a “Prometheus” like quality of ending just when it got started. The CGI effects are truly awesome especially when viewed on Blu Ray. If only it had the actors and characterization to match. The only characters I liked were Petra (played by Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit fame) and Bean (Aramis Knight)but they aren’t allowed to do more than applaud Ender and be led by him.