Well... Damn. Honestly, I don't know what to say about Ender's Game at this moment. The fact that I never read any of the books about this series or on the whole controversy of Orson Scott Card's views in gay marriage affecting the film's box-office potential because apparently, there are still people out there boycotting the film without seeing the film and won't shut the f*ck up about it. No, I'm not gonna go on the whole Card's view with gay marriage stuff but just to be clear, I'm OK with the homosexuals, gays, lesbians and other stuff. If you want to be gay or a homosexual, fine because it's who you want to be but enough with the boycotting alright? It won't help or solve anything, it will just cause more problems for everyone involved with the film. Got that? Wonderful! Now suck it up and let's review this film.
For those new to the books (including me), allow me to fill you in on the history that is Ender's Game. Ender's Game is a 1985 military science-fiction novel written by Orson Scott Card and it's a story that dealt with the story of adults using children as their only hope for winning a war with an alien species known as "Buggers", which they attacked Earth years ago and which mankind almost lost everything if it wasn't for the sacrifice of a commander. The military takes the children into a school where they trained the children to the extreme pressure of real war by using simulations or using a zero gravity arena to practice teamwork against enemies. The book became a universal hit with the book having 21 books that takes place in the same universe of Ender's Game, an audio series, it's own comic series by MARVEL and it was gonna have it's own game that was being developed by Chair, the same team who made Infinity Blade but got cancelled for no reason. The film, on the other hand, is a much different story. Orson Scott Card wanted his novel to be adapted into film during the 80's and 90's but sadly couldn't since Card was skeptical on the way Hollywood adapts novels into movies and refused deals of other studios because of creative differences. He almost got a deal with Warner Bros. in 2003 with the script he wrote based on his novel to the studio but the executives hated the script and decided that they wanted David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to re-write the script with Wolfgang Petersen directing. Realizing that it wouldn't work, Card decided to write another script and send it to OddLot Entertainment and the company liked the script so much that the film was given a go and thus, production began with Gavin Hood writing and directing the film with full creative control (unlike X-Men Origins Wolverine which FOX puts a nail on Gavin's ass). Years later and we finally have the film Ender's Game. After watching the film yesterday (advance screening!), I found this film to be a dark, edgy and thrilling spectacle about the consequences of war and how manipulative mankind can become when we are faced with a threat that not even they can overcome and instead, we turn to children to win wars that they don't want to be a part on. Ender's Game is one hell of a heart-stopping ride that will keep on the edge of your seat while being engrossed in the complex tale of morality, choice and manipulative side of mankind.
The overall plot of the movie does follow the book very closely with an alien race known as the "Formics" attacking Earth and having a commander sacrificing his life to win the war. Fearing that the Formics came back to destroy Earth, the governments of the world decides to use children as their best hope to win the upcoming war by creating the Battle School, a military founded program that teaches children on how to handle themselves in combat by teaching them how to handle extreme pressure, navigate through the battlefield, learning how to work together to take out enemy positions and firing the enemy at the right time. That is the case with Ender Wiggins, a shy but brilliant kid with unbelievable intelligence on how to deal with his enemies and can command his comrades with an iron fist, which impresses Colonel Graff to choose Ender as the next "Mazer Rackham", the man who sacrificed himself to save humanity from the Formics previous invasion. Now, Ender must lead his comrades to victory as each battle gets more intense for Ender and it's up to him to save the world from destruction... Or is it?
For an movie based on a book that I never read, Ender's Game surprisingly impressed me. The story may sound basic but Gavin Hood and Orson Scott Card (the guy who wrote the novel and wrote 6 different screenplays for the movie) add a lot of depth that feels very genuine and though-provoking. There are changes that fans may complain about like with the whole subplot with Ender and Petra but I honestly don't mind because the main focus of the whole film is on Ender. He is humanity's only hope to win a war and Ender is capable of doing the unthinkable while trying his best on not losing his inner humanity. Therefore, we get a character not only do we root for him but feel sorry for being in a position that no child can ever accomplish by his own. I don't want to give too much away on the Ender character for those who haven't watched it but simply put, Ender is a fantastic character and hopefully, we get to see more of him in future installments. As for the others, they all fare out well with Graff being an obsessed colonel that's looking for the right child that can lead humanity to victory by manipulating the children's emotions, Mazer Rackham is a hero of legends and a great aircraft pilot and the kids are just nice kids that are thrown into a situation that is beyond their reach and we root them to succeed in the war ahead of them. The story also deals with the issues of manipulation of using young people and sending them into battle as we see adults sending children to Battle School to train into battle and sending them into war as we may never get to see this kids alive ever again, in which is a pretty hard topic to grasp because this happens a lot in military schools or academies in today's world. I may not be a student of military but I know this stuff because I see a lot of news on TV about people in a young age from 16 to 20 going into military schools and get sent into war a lot of time (right Iraq?).
The action scenes are also a huge highlight in the film. Again, while there are not as violent like in the books (cause Summit doesn't have the guts to go full bloody hardcore on the teeny audiences), the intensity and danger of each action scene is perfectly well shot and it runs in a smooth fast pace that never gets boring or dull. Every time the action comes, there is never a moment where I go "hurry up or "this is so lame", the action stuff that happens on screen kept me glued to my chair with my eyes wide open for more. The best action scenes come in the final half of the movie and let me tell ya, Gavin Hood knows how to direct some fine action scenes and for those who have a IMAX theater near your area, it needs to be watched on the IMAX screen because it's is just overwhelming beyond measures. BTW, you are lucky that you guys have IMAX cause in my country of PR, we don't have IMAX theaters... I envy you lucky bastards in the US. The visuals and cinematography are also worth praise with each shot being perfect without adding any shaky-cam or unnecessary adjustments to the shot that allows the gorgeous art and set designs to shine on the big screen with it's futuristic looking designs and some fantastic costume designs for each clan (My favorite is the ones of Dragon Army BTW). The music by Transformers composer Steve Jablonsky was quite the other surprise that I forgot to mention with Steve doing a remarkable job on setting his musical tone with a dark, edgy and intense feel to the music that fits the movie's plot just fine and also, it is now one of my favorite film soundtracks I've heard for a while. The acting is strong with Asa Butterfield giving his best performance in his career and I just love Asa cause he proves that young actors do have talent but only if you give the freedom to those young actors to shine on the screen. He delivers a performance that brings depth to Ender and he delivers the emotional dilemmas of the film flawlessly with no sign of bad over-acting or any of the bad stuff that young actors suffer from. Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley deliver their A-game as Graff and Mark Rackham, Viola Davis gives a fine performance as Gwen and Abigail Brislin was pretty good in the role of Ender's sister Valentine, and as for the rest, they all did good jobs with their performances as the kids in Battle School.
Ender's Game is a fantastic use of the license novel and while it might not please all fans of the books, the least they can do is watch the film with an open mind and appreciate what Gavin Hood, Orson Scott Card and filmmakers did for the film because the film stays true to the spirit and plot of the novel while making small changes from the novel into the big screen like most films based books do. The film is just spectacular and it is a great way to start the November month with a solid sci-fi action film that it's fun for action junkies while emotionally impactful for adults and fans of the book. Let's hope the whole controversy dies or otherwise, the film might bomb at the box-office and we may never get to see another Ender's Game film ever again.