Review: 'Ender's Game' glumly launches another young adult sci-fi franchise
By Roger Moore
Published: Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
In a future where families are encouraged not to overbreed, Ender Wiggin is “a third,” the third child born to his family. “An extra.”
Skinny and pale, he is bullied at school. But he's been observed, singled out by the state. How he problem-solves during video games, how he copes with bullies — his cunning, ruthlessness and measured compassion — are assets.
“The world's smartest children are our best hope,” military leaders tell each other. And Ender (Asa Butterfield) is chosen for Battle School.
“Ender's Game,” based on Orson Scott Card's novel, is a glossy, humorless march through a future where kids are our best warriors, able to multitask combat duties and reason out strategies for battle success in an instant.
In the hands of South African director Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) the story's moral quandary, about kids learning to kill before they learn compassion, stands front and center.
“Ender's Game” follows Ender into Battle School, where his ability to master the skills of combat command are on display at every turn.
“We need a Julius Caesar, a Napoleon,” growls Col. Graff (Harrison Ford).
They're all still children, argues the yin to his yang, Major Anderson (Viola Davis).
Indeed they are — martial, militaristic kids culled from the population and trained for battle in weightless simulations where they learn tactics that will serve them in Earth's war for survival against the Formics, bug-eyed space-travelers who almost conquered Earth decades before.
Ender is not the heartless killer his older brother (Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak) is, not the empathetic pacifist his sister (Abigail Breslin) turned out to be. Threatened by a rival, he out-thinks, out-negotiates or outfights each one.
Butterfield (“Hugo”) makes a fine all-business soldier-in-the-making. Moises Arias and Hailee Steinfeld are well-cast as part of this distinctly multicultural school of the best and the brightest, and the movie perks up quite a bit when Ben Kingsley shows up.
“Ender's Game” is pretty stiff. It's good-looking, cautionary and clever enough. But there's not much in this “Game” that you'd call thrilling or fun.
Roger Moore is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.