Earth's in peril (isn't it always?) Some time in the future, an alien race called the called the Formics has attacked our lovely planet, but humaity managed to survive and fight them back. Now, 50 years later, humanity prepares to take the fight to the Formics, and is training up a troop made up entirely of children – because children's brains are somehow better wired for dealing with the complexities of controlling Earth's giant battleships.
Young Ender Wiggin (Butterfield) is one such recruit. In fact, it turns out that Wiggin is exactly the kind of recruit that Colonel Graff (Ford) and Mazer Rackham (Kingsley, with a Maori face tattoo but a Sarth Ifrakin accent) have been looking for. In today's parlance, he's the kind of kid who thinks outside the box, and is just the kind of leader and tactician that Earth needs in the3 coming battle. So off to boot camp goes Ender ...
It's been dubbed Harry Potter crossed with Star Wars, but Ender's Game feels more like Starship Troopers crossed with Full Metal Jacket (minus all the blood, gore, swearing and latrine-based suicide). At least a good half of the film takes place at space camp, with zero-G training and the usually bully-boy antics to toughen up the young soldiers. Ender quickly finds himself moving up the ranks, until he is given his own squad to lead.
Ender's Game has come in for considerable flack, but it's far from a bad film. It looks great, but that is no surprise; we've been lucky in 2013 to have a great batch of sci-fi films come our way (Elysium, Oblivion, Gravity) and as far as how it looks, Ender's Game can stand beside them proudly. The one big criticism is that the film is just so damn dry; there is barely a laugh to be had, and nobody ever cracks a smile.
OK, war is serious stuff, but this is a kids' film – it really could lighten up a bit here and there. It does tackle some serious subject matter, and heads down a very similar path to Starship Troopers (albeit with a lot less satire). It's a satisfying film, with strong performances along with a compelling story, and it has the potential to become a new franchise. Just throw in some laughs next time, OK?
EXTRAS ★★★ There's an audio commentary with director Hood; a second audio commentary with producers Gigi Pritzker and Robert Orci; the featurette Ender's World: The Making Of Ender's Game (49:31); and six deleted/extended scenes, with an optional audio commentary from Hood (11:09).