Gavin Hood‘s Ender’s Game is the latest young adult novel to be adapted to the big screen with very little care. Ender’s Game, as a film, is as hollow as can be, attempting to tell a futuristic story about children leading the military against an alien race that threatens mankind, while also peeling back the layers of what’s right and wrong during war and just how far some are willing to go to justify a reason. Ender’s Game is poorly acted and executed, oftentimes feeling cheap and rushed, while ending on a very bitter note.
Ender (Asa Butterfield) is a brilliant child. He’s one of the brightest and best and the International Military believes him to be the future of the war. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) personally selects Ender as the chosen one and from that point Ender is tossed into all sorts of vigorous training exercises among Earth’s best and brightest youth.
He faces lots of pressure. Many believe him to be the savior of the planet and the child that will lead Earth to victory, while Ender doubts himself highly and doesn’t really know if what he’s doing is the right thing or just something that is being forced upon him.
Complications arise as his training becomes more intense and the threat of an all-out war with an alien race becomes greater.
I’d go on more about the plot of Gavin Hood‘s Ender’s Game, but there’s just too much half-cooked bullshit to really allow one to sift through it and pick out the film’s gems, which are far and few between.
Ender’s Game is a film that has been long talked about coming to the big screen. I’ve never read the book, which means I came in expecting absolutely nothing and walked out knowing that I mostly got what I expected.
And that’s the most troubling thing about the film. There are moments where Ender’s Game really does go out of its way to become its own unique story, but then it falls back into so many procedural beats to progress the story. Almost all of the training is done with little to no excitement, while the film’s big finale twist definitely shocks and awes, but is then followed by twenty five minutes of more mindless bullshit that leaves too much open for a sequel, which isn’t even a sure thing at this point.
Gavin Hood shoots the film with a cheap eye and a talent for making every single person on screen feel like a robot. Seriously, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld (Oscar nominated for her excellent work in True Grit), Harrison Ford and every breathing soul on the screen drop not a single strand of emotion at any point during the film. Everything is choked out with a lifeless delivery that almost feels intentional, but really just feels like actors taking orders from a director that doesn’t know what he wants out of a scene.
The film’s tone shifts from being overly serious and dramatic, to just plain dumb and silly without much reasoning behind it. Again, I’m not sure if this is how the book reads or if Hood just doesn’t have what it takes to transfer such material to the big screen.
And even with all of that being said, I still kind of preferred Gavin Hood‘s messy and half-cooked Ender’s Game to other young adult novel adaptations such as The Hunger Games. The two are drastically different, yet at least Ender’s Game wasn’t afraid to get really weird when things called for it. The film’s alien creatures are bizarre and a lot of the concepts being thrown around are basically the same, but Ender’s Game approaches things with such a grim and unforgiving tone. There’s not much lightness to be found in this film about children soldiers being forced to battle an alien race.
Also, Asa Butterfield‘s Ender isn’t nearly as unwatchable as Jennifer Lawrence in THG. Butterfield suffers from that same wooden delivery that the rest of the crew faces, but at least his character has a natural kindness that’s incredibly likable and sympathetic. Ender is mostly a product of mistake, constantly getting forced into things and having to clean up messes that he never had a hand in and it’s partially interesting watching him solve things better than anyone else, while using half of his brain to do so.
I realize that my review for Ender’s Game is almost as poorly structured and as off-point as the film itself. The film has so much going on, yet it feels like nothing is happening. Gavin Hood was clearly the wrong man for the job or perhaps the material was best fit for reading and not viewing? I’m not quite sure. What I can say is that the film is something that skids by on ideas that aren’t fully rendered or ever given enough time to breathe. Everything rushes on by, including the character building, the action sequences and the film’s abrupt ending. Nothing is given time to simmer, causing you to forget things almost instantly, which results in a review like this one.
Ender’s Game – 6.5/10