Ender’s Game – USA, 2013

In 1985, Orson Scott Card published his novel ENDER’S GAME, which quickly became a modern sci-fi classic, to join the ranks of the 100 best books for teenagers and young adults. Despite the controversial themes, the novel and its sequels continue to enjoy enormous popularity. So it was merely a matter of time before this popular work, too, would be adapted for the big screen.

Although ENDER’S GAME kicks off with the standard backstay of an alien race having attacked Earth 50 years before (á la OBLIVION, ELYSIUM, et al) – with devastating effects – this sci-fi adventure soon takes a more weighty turn and actually finishes off by being somewhat introspective.

Expecting another attack and determined not to get caught again with its pants down, the military is preparing to lead a crushing pre-emptive strike against the insectoid, alien Formics. Scientific research has revealed that youngsters are more strategically adept than adults, thus potential candidates are already recruited in childhood. Fleet commander, Col. Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) has pinned his hopes on 12-year old Ender, played by Asa Butterfield (HUGO), whom he thinks has the potential strategic genius to destroy their enemies. This, despite the fact that the boy’s stronger and more seemingly-appropriate siblings have already failed the tough training program.

Thus conscripted, Ender joins the team of kiddy cadets and, together, they are swept off for serious physical and psychological training on the off-world space station. And, indeed, in the ensuing battle simulations, Ender not only reveals astonishing skill, but is also able to hold his own against some of his more envious rivals. The majority of the movie focuses on the kids’ tough training – nothing new here for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES or HARRY POTTER, but when push comes to shove, ENDER’S GAME offers far more gravitas, ultimately tackling such contentious issues as military tactics, the exploitation of minors, foreign policy, and genocide. 

Gavin Hood (WOLVERINE, TSOTSI), screenwriter/director, although taking considerable liberties with the storyline and its focal points, has nevertheless managed to stay true to the spirit of the original. Although the plot is certainly predictable and there is a severe lack of non-stop action – which might disappoint many fans of the genre – Ender is a compelling character and, when the action scenes do occur – they are very exciting, with great visual effects and high production value.

ENDER’S GAME (German title: Das große Spiel) – USA, 2013; Genre: Sci-Fi adventure; Director/screenplay: Gavin Hood; Writer: Orson Scott Card (Novel); Cast: Asa Buttrfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee; Cinematographer: Donald M. McAlpine; Music: Steve Jablonsky; Distributors/Release dates: Constantin Film, Oct. 24 (Germany) / Summikt Entertainment, Nov. 1 (USA)

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