I had a nice day off today after a draining weekend, so a rare moment for me to go to the cinema on my own in the peace of a weekday mid-morning. Only problem is that there’s not been a lot of films I’ve been very enthused about recently, and while I’ll have to wait another day before I see “Gravity”, I was suitably intrigued by “Ender’s Game”, and adapation of the book by award-winning gay-hating sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card.
It looked like a big popcorn film, perhaps taking itself more seriously than it should. Even the guy at the popcorn desk said it was “basically Harry Potter in space”, not encouraging but I’d say that observation was pretty far off. It follows youngster ‘Ender’ Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) as he attempts to scale the heights of a military recruitment drive that looks to the smartest, most adaptable children to defeat Earth’s longstanding enemy, the Formics.
These creatures fiercely attacked Earth a few decades back, until their master strategist bravely kamikazed his way to destroying the Formic fleet. The threat is out there still, and Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) is looking for the next big thing to take care of the threat before it comes back.
Aside from their adaptability as strategists, it’s never quite satisfactorily explained why you never see adult soldiers. Are they just not worth it? So it’s less deft a setup than other big ‘young adult’ movies’ motivation for putting kids at the centre of the action. The regime in “The Hunger Games” used children as an instrument of oppression, and the kids in Hogwarts were involved simply by Harry’s birthright drawing fire from Voldemort.
Still, “Enders Game” doesn’t pull any punches, as Ender endures a lot of emotional onslaught from his violent brother, and a parade of angry young cadets at different stages. As a result, the first half is tough going, while the journey doesn’t feel like anything I hadn’t seen in a lot of movies before. Rare moments of happiness are squashed quickly, and the trip through the ranks never really lets up.
A fight after the half-way mark shocked me out of my stupor though, at least proving that unexpected twists are on the menu. The final act – well I’m not going to spoil it – was really well done, and I think maybe the predictable parts of the film meant I wasn’t expecting the outcome we got.
It was an interesting thinkpiece, particularly if you consider that the source material is nearly 30 years old now. I liked how it drew a parallel to Ender’s entirely reasonable defence strategy when bullied at cadet school to Earth attacking the Formic homeworld in the name of self defence. There’s a line between the two – or at least in this case when so little was known about the Formics – and that debate can easily extent to events in the world today.
Not an amazing film, but not a bad one either. Not a popcorn film particularly either, and perhaps the tone is a bit too hard to be a crowd pleaser, but definitely an interesting film that I’m glad I watched.