Considered adaptation of Orson Scott Card's young adult science fiction book
Hot on the heels of Kevin MacDonald’s How I Live Now, Ender’s Game is the latest film tailored to capture that lucrative teen market. But whether it becomes the next Hunger Games or simply another I Am Number Four, the difference here is that, unlike other recent adaptations of Young Adult literature, Ender’s Game comes from a book from a galaxy far, far away. Well, 1985 – which in teen terms must feel like another universe.
Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, the controversial author whose extreme views on homosexuality have done the film few favours in the run-up to release, Ender’s Game comes across like a hybrid of Full Metal Jacket and Starship Troopers. In a world ravaged by a past alien attack, gifted children are now recruited to join a military academy, learning tactics to go with their already super-fast reactions, to help plot against an expected second wave.
Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin (Hugo star Asa Butterfield) is the latest new hope, with his progress overseen by Harrison Ford and Viola Davis’ supervisors. A loose cannon, but with raw potential, Ender gradually grows in confidence, even if it means being apart from his beloved sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin). South African writer/director Gavin Hood has studied young people and violence before, in his 2005 drama Tsotsi, and the themes of sending children to war resonate strongly here.
Likewise, the sound of butting heads between Ford’s Colonel Hyrum Graff and Butterfield’s hotheaded Ender. Throw in Sir Ben Kingsley as a tattoo-clad Maori warrior and True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld as Ender’s fellow trainee Petra, and there’s enough human drama to overshadow the special effects. Unfortunately, narrative developments late on almost up-end the story, never quite inspiring the desired emotional impact. But at least, as blockbusters go, it’s a considered, rather than thoughtless, ride.
General release from Fri 25 Oct.