Review: “Ender’s Game” is out of this world

Addie McNamara, Author

It’s a daunting task to try to cram hundreds of pages of eloquently written science fiction into two hours of film, but “Ender’s Game” director Gavin Hood has skillfully managed to do just that in his depiction of Orson Scott Card’s best-selling novel.

The story is set many years in the future, after bug-like alien creatures known as the Formics have launched an attack on Earth. A military commander named Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) saves the human race from the first Formic attack, but International Fleet Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) decides he must train a child as fleet commander to destroy the entire Formic population before it can launch another invasion. “Ender’s Game” follows the journey of Ender Wiggin, played by 16-year-old Asa Butterfield (“Hugo,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”), who is chosen to attend Battle School in an orbiting space station so that he may become the commander of the fleet. Colonel Graff takes Ender through a series of mock battles, culminating in one final test that may wipe out the Formics entirely.

Although the ending of the movie does not create the same catharsis for the audience as the book does, the talented and youthful cast, elaborate Computer-Generated Images and action-packed battle scenes make up for the apparent lack of emotion. The movie leaves viewers with plenty to think about.

The young cast of “Ender’s Game” is juxtaposed with the gravity of the situation, bringing to surface the concept of how society allows war to affect children and raising ideas about innocence and corruption. Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) and Aramis Knight (“The Dark Knight Rises”), who play Ender’s Battle School friends Petra and Bean, act effortlessly alongside Butterfield and contribute to the overall sense of camaraderie in the group of children. Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) also gives an outstanding performance as Ender’s younger sister Valentine.

In addition to the youthful cast, the use of special effects and CGIs throughout the movie adds excitement to the somewhat grave tale. The depiction of the Formics and the portrayal of the creatures in Ender’s “mind game” are two instances in which CGIs truly strengthen the sentiment behind the movie and draw the audience into the experience.

Multiple scenes in “Ender’s Game” show training battles, where teams of children float in zero gravity and earn points by shooting each other with weapons that temporarily “freeze” players. The movie does an incredible job of delivering these scenes with extensive action as well as a glimpse into the strategy of the game, appealing to several types of audience members.

Not only is the execution of the movie top-notch, but also the overall messages within the story instigate a level of profound thought. “Ender’s Game” calls into question the morality of war, genocide and deception. It examines human nature when reacting to things that appear different from us. It challenges the established roles of children and adults.

The only significant flaw in “Ender’s Game” is the time constraint. Because the movie is only two hours long, it is difficult to form an emotional attachment to the characters, so the ending does not evoke the same sympathy and frustration that the book does.

On the whole, “Ender’s Game” is a valuable use of time and money. While you might think “Catching Fire” is the only science fiction movie for you, I can assure you that you don’t want to miss out on the captivating story of Ender Wiggin and the Formics.