Movie Review: ‘Ender’s Game’

Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley
Gavin Hood
Asa Butterfield stars as Ender Wiggin, the hero of the popular book of the same title written by Orson Scott Card in 1985. The story takes place in the future, 50 years after a war with an alien race nearly wiped out the human population of planet Earth. To prevent another devastating invasion, the human race has launched a counter offensive to deal with the alien race, known as the Formics, but commonly referred to as “buggers.” The offensive is missing just one thing – a capable leader – and time is running out. Ender Wiggin becomes the last hope for the human race, but to become commander of this intergalactic fleet, he first needs to survive battle school.
Director Gavin Hood takes on a difficult task in bringing Ender’s Game to the movie screen. Not only does the novel have a large following, but the narrative and major themes of the book are expressed primarily inside the head of the protagonist, Ender Wiggin. In creating an adaptation that successfully expresses those main themes, Hood had to find a way to get the audience inside the head of Wiggin. While Hood finds a way to portray those themes, the depth and complexity of the plot is lost in the crossover to the big screen.

Readers of the book may be disappointed with Hood’s adaptation of the movie. The story told in the movie takes course over a shorter time period than in the book, making it feel rushed. Significant portions of the book are condensed or left out entirely. While this is a shame, it is necessary to fit the entire story into the 114-minute movie.

That is not to say the movie should be shunned by those who have read the book. Readers must remember that this movie is not the book but simply an adaptation of it, as with any book brought to the big screen. The movie does portray the major themes well but shies away from some of the less important storylines revealed in the book.

One of the major themes expressed in the book and movie is the ethics of warfare. When the Formics first invade, the human race is justified in the defense of its race and planet. However, then humans go on the warpath, hoping to end the conflict between humans and “buggers” once and for all. Ender struggles with the idea that the human race has become so obsessed with revenge that it has become the very thing that it is trying to destroy.

Harrison Ford plays the main antagonist in the film, Colonel Graff. His character stands out because many people are used to seeing Ford as one of the protagonists in films such as “Indiana Jones” or “Star Wars.” As a result, some people may find it uncomfortable to hate his character and may find themselves with more a sympathetic viewpoint toward Graff. Throughout the movie, Graff’s actions are dictated by a teleological, “the end justifies the means” ethic with the end goal being the survival of the human race. Graff believes he has to do whatever it takes to ensure the human race survives.

Overall, science fiction fans are sure to be thrilled by the visually stunning battle sequences of humans against the swarms of “buggers.” Moviegoers will find themselves wondering who the bad guys really are, asking themselves how far they would go to ensure the survival of the human race and at what cost.

Erik Johnson is a junior journalism major and sports editor for Cedars. He competes on the cross-country and track teams. Follow him at @edgejohnson49.

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