Young adult science fiction that challenges you to use your conscience. Ender’s Game is a war-games movie that enlists the young of the future to conquer aliens on a distant planet after an attack on our Earth. This movie grazes great potential, dumbs down ever so slightly once or twice, but lingers on with pensive suspense in how these children will be utilized. Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) is the preteen who is hand-picked by military brass as a candidate to be “The One” who will defeat the alien “Formics” in interplanetary war. Harrison Ford (“Air Force One” jingoism) is intimidating as Colonel Graff, who escorts the boy to Battle School on a space station around Earth’s orbit. Viola Davis is the Major and apparent psych evaluator, Ben Kingsley as a military hero, and Hailee Steinfeld is another cadet and faithful friend.
The art direction is fabulously high-tech in outer space. The kids are in no mortal threat up there, it seems, but they are encouraged to behave aggressively in training school. Several great scenes in the movie involve training and video game mastery that tests war application thinking. Particularly exciting are the laser tag war simulations in zero gravity, notably, you can perceive the brilliance in Ender’s strategizing. The action is equally coherent, something you didn’t get out of Harry Potter’s Quidditch matches. There’s always a rotten kid with a superior ranking in cadet school, and here it’s Moises Arias (as Bonzo, he’s a little too sociopathic to have convincingly been promoted by adult commanders). When Ender beats him bad, I don’t know what he has to be so sorry about.
Why are kids being selected to participate in a future war, you ask? Kids have a sharper and quicker reaction time when it comes to video game style of warfare (how would a kid maneuver a fleet of star planes if it were a game to win?). What’s compelling is how Colonel Graff is a perfect manipulator of the kids in his quasi-fascist molding of them. The kids, too, are being denied certain rights such as no contact with family back on Earth, for which Ender is the only one to challenge authority to regain those rights. Erstwhile, Ender loves the power that he is earning by climbing the ranks. While the military believes they are creating a perfect young war commander with no feelings, Ender is nonetheless embedded with naïve human compassion which clashes with the military’s needs.
This is a visually captivating spectacle that makes you feel like you’re beyond Earth for a couple hours. It also has you thinking about the moral implications of using youth to defeat a foreign enemy. I was riled up and wowed by this movie. Based on the Orson Scott Card novel and directed by Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”).
114 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
SCI-FI & FANTASY / YOUNG TEENS / FRIDAY NIGHT BLOCKBUSTER
Film Cousins: “The Last Starfighter” (1984); “Starship Troopers” (1997); “The Matrix” (1999); “Pacific Rim” (2013).