As any book lover knows, some movie adaptations of novels come off better than some. For every “Lord of the Rings” there are a dozen of, say, “Beowulf.”
“Ender’s Game” falls into kind of the same territory as “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” territory—a mostly faithful rendition that cuts out some of the best bits and prolongs others.
For those who haven’t read Orson Scott Card’s best-selling novel, “Ender’s Game” it follows Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield), a young genius, as he competes with other geniuses for a spot at battle school to train to fight an alien species that nearly wiped out Earth 50 years before. He wins a bunk, but then has to navigate the social and military structure there.
Heavily pulling for him is Col. Graff (Harrison Ford), who believes Ender could be “The One.” Despite the unpopularity that comes with having the battle school commander praising him at every turn, Ender manages to make a few friends, including Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), Bean (Aramis Knight) and Alai (Suraj Partha). But as they progress through battle games and simulations, a renewed alien threat grows closer and the stakes rise to impossible heights.
Above anything else, “Ender’s Game” is a very pretty movie—probably only second this year to “Gravity.” The special effects are gorgeous, which definitely helps the movie because it is stuffed with them to the gills. They make the futuristic aspects of the story, like zero-gravity competitions and, you know, it taking place in space, feel almost real. The soundtrack, from Steve Jablonsky, nicely conveys the changes in mood and circumstance throughout.
The acting is, surprisingly, uneven. Ford, obviously, is great, as is Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley, and the kids are all pretty good, especially considering how much of the story rests on them and the fairly nuanced sub-story they’re responsible for. I guess the only performances that I have a big beef with would come from Ender’s parents, who are barely in the movie, true, but I felt they were a serious rough spot.
Some parts also dragged, especially some bits of battle school, while completely cutting out others. If writer-director Gavin Hood was going for a subtle display of Ender’s growth and development of leadership ability, he missed the mark a little. Ender’s rise, while it’s supposed to be rapid, lacked a display of gradual accumulation (cue debates about whether such progress is present in the source material, and if that even matters).
More importantly—and I say this having read the book multiple times so I know how big a part battle school and command school is in the context of the story—it just bored me. I have a relatively short attention span, true, but that’s still not a good sign. The draggy feel is a little surprising, too, because the movie’s really not that long—it’s under two hours from start to the end of the credits.
Overall, “Ender’s Game” doesn’t smack the book adaptation out of the park, but it’s not terrible to watch, either, and most fans will probably be pleased.