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Ender's Game - Review

Ender's Game

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

GAVIN Hood’s adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s best-selling science fiction novel Ender’s Game is an intriguing but ultimately flawed experience – but not for the want of trying.

The film is packaged as a big, brash blockbuster capable of appealing to the young adult crowd but at its heart lies some more mature ideas that eventually give rise to an unconventional ending. War and oppression take centre-stage as does its effect on those who fight it, meaning that there are some grand themes at play.

But Hood’s film often struggles to maintain a confident balance between those and the more obligatory coming-of-age material, which involves the usual hormonal teen stuff.

The story follows Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) as he is identified as mankind’s potential saviour in a forthcoming battle against insect-like aliens who have targeted Earth. Hence, he is sent to space camp under the gruff tutelage of the veteran Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) who sets him a series of tests (or games) designed to assess his suitability.

The bulk of Hood’s film is taken up in space camp and follows Ender as he begins to form his own moral compass and make the leap from teenager to man, and from team player to leader. And, to be fair, Butterfield acquits himself well in the lead role, carrying a significant part of the movie with ease and creating a complex, intelligent and sympathetic young man.

But the nature of the game-playing does lend the film a repetitive feel, while some of its surprises are too easily telegraphed and negate the impact of the final scenes.

Potentially interesting supporting characters are also under-used with the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin and even potential love interest Hailee Steinfeld not really given enough to do. Ford fares a little better and enjoys some nice scenes with Butterfield but even his character would have benefited from a little more layering.

A long-promised big showdown also fizzles out and forms part of a wider plan for the story that ultimately underwhelms, even though the actual ending itself does deserve credit for its subversive nature.

Hence, while spectacular to look at (Hood has created an impressive universe on fairly limited means that bears comparisons with Starship Troopers), and without merit, Ender’s Game can’t quite realise all of iits potential, especially in the way that it struggles to deliver the emotional clout that had been promised.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 120mins
UK Release Date: October 25, 2013