I meant to do it. I really meant to read the book before this movie came out. But alas, it remains on my “To Be Read” shelf, parked with three dozen other books all waiting their turn. So this review could get very interesting.
Ender’s Game is based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card. It tells the story of a young recruit who is training to ward off an alien invasion. Is it as epic as outer space or should we let aliens blow it away? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, click here.)
So who stars in this film? Asa Butterfield is the title character; his previous films include Hugo, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Nanny McPhee Returns. Harrison Ford, who plays Colonel Hyrum Graff, has also been in the Star Wars original trilogy, the Indiana Jones films, and 42. Mazer Rackham is portrayed by Ben Kingsley, who has also starred in Ghandi, Hugo, and Prince of Persia. Other actors include Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, and Hailee Steinfeld.
Gavin Hood directs; his other projects include Tsotsi, Rendition, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The fact that the only film I know on this list is the one X-Men film not even Hugh Jackman with claws could carry doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Maybe he’s got something special up his sleeve … or maybe this will turn out to be just another action-packed flick with no heart and characters you don’t care about.
The trailer opens with shots of alien forces invading Earth. Harrison Ford explains how the attack nearly wiped out the planet. I’ll bet he’s wishing he hadn’t returned that Crystal Skull now. I’m curious, though: how did anyone survive that wave of fire sweeping across the face of the Earth? Didn’t the same thing happen in Knowing and everyone died? But Harrison is sure the aliens will be back, because apparently they’re just that stubborn. Guys, if a wave of fire can’t kill us, you’re wasting your time. Just go home.
But we see just how resilient the ecosystem is as a futuristic car pulls up to a scenic mountain lake. Then the scene changes to the Fortress of Solitude which seems to have been fried. No wonder Superman didn’t save us from the aliens. Meanwhile, Harrison tells Ender how important he is. “You were bred for this,” he says. Gosh, it’s going to be really disappointing if those aliens decide to invade some other planet instead. All that hard genetic work for nothing. For whatever reason, he’s the only one who can think like the aliens do, hopefully minus the part where he thinks it’s a good idea to blow up the planet.
The trailer tells us that there’s a new kind of threat, apparently forgetting these guys already attacked us. But we do see that Harrison was right, because the alien fleets are taking off once again. Training is over as the battle begins, led by “A New Kind of Hero.” Because no one has ever thought to use a teenager against the bad guys before. Except in Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. I know it was novel at the time the book came out, but the movie no longer has the right to call a teenager a new kind of hero. But they’re probably referring to his powers and the way he sees things.
Still, Mazer insists Ender isn’t ready. “You’re never ready,” Harrison tells him. Never ready to fight a horde of aliens capable of napalming the entire surface of Earth? I can’t imagine why not. Meanwhile, Ender takes out an alien spaceship from beneath a field of conveniently located space ice. “I’ve never seen anyone do that,” Viola Davis whispers. Seriously? No one’s thought to hide behind stuff when they shoot at things? These people need to go out and get a bunch of gamers who excel at Modern Warfare and Mass Effect and let them handle the aliens.
“You should tell him the truth,” Mazer says to Harrison. “Why?” he replies. Um, because honesty is the best policy? And because of the first point I made in my Overanalysis of The Dark Knight? If you build trust on a lie, it’ll eventually crumble, and you don’t want Ender on the alien’s side. The trailer informs us that “This Is No Game.” Really? Then why call it Ender’s Game? Why not Ender’s War or Ender’s Firefight or Ender’s Alien Invasion of Death? We see Ender float out into a really dangerous-looking game of zero-gravity laser tag as Viola asks, “When it’s over, what will be left of the boy?” “What does it matter if there’s nothing left at all?” In other words, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. “If you don’t try, then we will all be lost,” Ender’s sister tells him. No pressure. Seriously, though, is it all on him? Has no one thought to breed more than one miracle child or to create some special superweapon or even to build a bunch of nukes? Clearly the United States did not survive the first alien war, because if there’s one thing America knows how to do, it’s nuke aliens.
As everything blows up, Ender swears to do his best to end the war. “If you succeed,” Harrison tells him, “you will be remembered as a hero.” If you fail, however, you will be remembered as the guy who led the entire human race into extinction. Suddenly, my senior project doesn’t seem quite so scary. Ender goes into battle, more stuff blows up, and Mazer sees that “He’s abandoning his entire fleet.” Apparently not, though, since Harrison comes right back and says, “He’s in command; there’s no stopping him now.” So clearly, he’s taking control of the fleet, not abandoning it. Sure, nobody else gets to pilot, but they’re pretty much worthless anyway since the future rides on this one kid. Ender counts down, and all the ships fire at the enemy. And since there was no stopping him, Ender won and became the ruler of the galaxy. The End!
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? I guess so. I think I’d be more excited about it if I had read the book like I planned to. It’s got great visuals and great actors, but the trailer seems to reveal too much about the plot and at the same time not enough. I feel as though I know exactly what happens even though I have no idea what is going on or what the characters are like. Basically, the problem is that the trailer didn’t make me care about the movie. It’s worth noting that, from what I could find on Wikipedia, this film has Orson Scott Card’s seal of approval and is the best that could be done with what he considered to be “unfilmable.” If you’re a fan of the book or of sci-fi action films in general, this is probably a good pick for you. Will I see it? Not in theaters, but I might be willing to rent it when it comes out on DVD.
Who knows? Maybe by then I’ll have actually read the book.
Ender’s Game is owned by Summit Entertainment.