Critics and audiences have not particularly taken to Ender’s Game, but I found it an entertaining, intelligent and much underrated piece of work.
Adapted and directed by Gavin Hood (Tsotsi) from a futuristic Orson Scott Card novel I’ve not read, the plot concerns the adolescent Ender (Asa Butterworth), whose skills at military based computer games catches the attention of gruff old soldier Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford). Graff wants to recruit Ender for a defence programme that will provide a pre-emptive strike against an alien race called the Formics; a race that once nearly devastated the Earth.
Pitched as Harry Potter meets Star Wars, this isn’t really either. It is, however, a flawed though surprisingly thoughtful sci-fi flick. Performances are good, particularly from Asa Butterworth who notches up another turn to stand alongside his great work in Hugo and The Boy with the Striped Pyjamas. Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld are both good in a supporting roles. Ben Kingsley turns up too, but lurches between various different silly accents.
The action and special effects are handled well by Hood, but he is clearly more concerned with the moral dimensions of the story. Ender’s Game is ultimately about the damaging effect of militarisation and remote warfare on the human soul. It cleverly contrasts war game scenarios with the real thing, even daring to suppose it may one day be impossible to differentiate between the two. Given that we live in an era of remote controlled drone strikes and the like, the film’s premise becomes eerily prescient.
All things considered, Ender’s Game is a solid, well-acted sci-fi film with plenty of food for thought.