Review: Ender's Game

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Ender's Game

Opening this weekend, Ender's Game represents something of a puzzle. The movie is based on a novel considered by many to be the greatest work of science fiction ever written, but authored by Orson Scott Card, controversial as a homophobic contributor to the anti-gay marriage movement. Many people have vowed to boycott the film because of Card's views, but Ender's Game is a story that deserves to be told.  

It was a bold move to put such a sizable production for such an important story into the hands of Gavin Hood, director of the much maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The resulting film, however, does manage to hit the important points of an extensive story while failing to completely do it justice.

The premise is a future Earth that has survived an alien invasion through the heroics of one exceptional leader. Seventy years later, the government is seeking a new leader for an attack force who has the ability to understand the enemy and the genius to defeat them.

Children are considered the only viable candidates, and Andrew "Ender" Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) represents the greatest hope for success. Leading his training is Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), who has some unconventional ideas about instruction. Vilified for being smarter and more successful than his peers, Ender is manipulated by Graff into being emotionally detached from his classmates in order to make him a better leader.

Watching the movie Ender's Game, I had a feeling that never occurred as I read the book -- that it vaguely resembles the Harry Potter books. Ender is no orphan, but is separated from his family. He's everyone's hope for victory, and he's the star player of zero-gravity quidditch. This is likely the result of adapting an involved novel into only 114 minutes. A story that takes place over four years is compressed into little more than a few months. Sweeping plotlines from the source are abandoned, and what remains must be calculated to sell (and therefore pleasantly omits the anti-gay slurs found in Card's book).

Hood's film is everything you'd expect from a big-budget Hollywood film, particularly when it comes to spectacular visuals that make it a must-see in IMAX. But the entire story is all just a setup for the final scene -- something so important, it was the idea upon which Card based his entire novel, a chapter that was first conceived and written and then the rest of the book was written to explain it. Hood pays lip service to this conclusion but fails to capture the gravity that won the book such acclaim. Therefore, sadly, Ender's Game is at best an above-average adaptation that is still very much worth seeing and in fact will inspire many to read the novel.