Saturday 30 March 2019

Movie Review: Ender's Game (2013)

A science fiction war adventure, Ender's Game is a hopelessly inept Boys' Own debacle filled with video-game special effects, snarling bullies and little else.

In the future, humanity has repelled an alien invasion by the marauding Formics, an ant-like species intent on colonizing Earth. Preparations for a follow-up war are underway, and children are being groomed as military commanders due to the clarity of their mind and ability to think like the enemy. Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) spots the leadership potential in young teenager Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), although psychologist Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) is not so sure.

Under Hyrum's guidance Ender is pushed through the stages of the space-based military training academy, where he meets various other trainees including the sympathetic Petra (Hailee Steinfeld) and aggressive Bonzo. Ender has to prove himself at every turn, and misses his sister Val (Abigail Breslin). As the preparations for an impending war become more intense, he starts to question everything around him as he struggles to understand the motivations of the Formics.

An adaptation of the book series by Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game carries precious little appeal outside the target demographic of young teenaged boys. The film is a mind-numbing series of rudimentary bully conflicts experienced by young Ender, jazzed up by CGI mostly featuring kids floating around a "Battle Room" firing lights at each other. Any relationship between "training" involving games of tag and the reality of commanding massive battleships is tenuous at best.

Most of what passes as action happens on screens within screens, from Ender experiencing a seemingly profound search for the truth through an ipad game all the way to the climactic battle that entirely surrenders to an incomprehensible pixel show. Director and writer Gavin Hood is unable to elevate the material to anything other than over-elaborate fireworks. The sudden eruption of emotional displays are more embarrassing than effective.

The performances match the material, Harrison Ford and Viola Davis delivering plastic line readings devoid of context, and young Asa Butterfield hamstrung by a never ending series of loner cliches.

After clumsily appending a post-genocidal u-turn towards an exasperating quest for interspecies harmony within a narrative void, Ender's Game cannot end soon enough.

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