Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Movie Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game 
Rated: PG-13
114 minutes

The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth. (description from

So, I may have mentioned once, or twice, or hmmm...numerous times that Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is one of my top five favorite novels of all-time. As such, I have to admit that I was *extremely* nervous when they first announced they were going to attempt a movie adaptation.  As casting was announced and stills were released, though, and then finally the trailer came out, my anticipation grew until I could NOT WAIT for November 1st.  

I am not a midnight release movie-goer, and yet, I seriously considered it for this movie. Happily, I had Friday off from work, so I did end up seeing it on it's first day in the theater!  

I am pleased to report that I really, truly enjoyed the movie.  Now, it was not as good as the book, but I'd expected that, so the movie lived up perfectly to the expectations I had for it.  First off, the casting choices were STELLAR.  Asa Butterfield gave an amazing performance as Ender, as did Harrison Ford playing Colonel Graff. I could not have asked for a better actor for either role. Without those two performances having the nuances and depths that Butterfield and Ford brought to them, the whole movie could have tanked.  Then add in the excellent supporting cast and the movie becomes a blockbuster just from that respect! 

While Sir Ben Kingsley, Nonso Anozie, and Viola Davis played their parts as the other mentors and role models in Ender's life very, very well, this movie is truly about the children who train to become the military heroes of tomorrow.  Again, any of these casting choices failing could have been a crucial mistake and thankfully, these people knew what they were doing.  Hailee Steinfeld was *excellent* as Petra Arkanian. I can see why she'd previously been nominated for an Oscar! 

Petra, Bean (played by Aramis Knight) and Alai (played by Suraj Partha) all hit just the right notes, first as competitors that distrust Ender, then as staunch supporters that will follow Ender all the way to the end.  Watching these actors interact was a pleasure.  Even the choice of Moises Arias as Bonzo Madrid was spot-on.  And though we didn't see a lot of her, Abigail Breslin did a great job as Ender's compassionate sister, Valentine. 

In fact, that was one of the things that left me just a hair disappointed as I came out of the theater. Though I know how difficult it can be to pick and choose which aspects of a story are tackled in a movie adaptation, the complete absence of any reference to Peter and Valentine's subplot as influences on Earth's political government, leading to Peter Wiggin becoming the Hegemon (ultimate head of politics on Earth) I felt was glaring.  Without this being mentioned at all in this movie, I don't understand how a sequel, if one is ever made, would be tackled as each story following this first one touches on Earth's politics fairly heavily...  

I also understand that the timeline had to be tightened up and as such, the focus on the battle school virtual battles became a visually stunning and continuous plot for this movie, but I worry that viewers who have not read the book will not understand the emotional devastation that Ender faces as he becomes more and more isolated and feels more and more empathetic to the race that Earth is trying to destroy.  In fact, the movie is restructured in such a way that Ender's isolation is hardly apparent and the empathy that Ender feels for the "buggers" is not apparent until after the culminating events of the movie. 

However as a purely visual medium for a shortened/less layered version of the classic story, this movie was pretty epic.  The battle room scenes were everything I hoped for, the blend of technologies and Earth and space vistas were breathtaking and I left eager for more. 

My friends know that I'm pretty cheap frugal when it comes to seeing movies in the theater...and I liked this one enough that I'm considering going again... let that sink in, people. I may PAY to see this movie a second time.  That's the highest endorsement I can give it. 


  1. My husband and I were also disappointed at the way they shortchanged the Peter/Valentine subplot, especially since it informed so much of Ender's fear of "the Peter in his nature." But, as my husband said, it's hard to write a "riveting blog war subplot." So.... you take what you can get, I guess.

  2. After seeing the movie yesterday (yes- very late) I completely agree with your review. The Peter/Valentine connection was not very much displayed, but I thought that the cast was picked especially well. All in all, I thought it was a great movie, but could have been greatly improved if there was more of the details that there were in the book. I am wondering whether or not they will do a sequel, but it would prove rather difficult due to the circumstance they led themselves into. Great review though!