Directed by: Gavin Hood Screenplay by: Gavin Hood Based on the Novel by: Orson Scott Card Cinematography by: Donald McAlpine Original Music by: Steve Jablonsky
Premise: After passing an unexpected final test at school, Ender, the youngest in a family of five, is invited to join the International Fleet's battle academy. The academy exist for the sole purpose of creating a great general to lead Earth against the alien adversaries who almost destroyed them seventy years prior. Colonel Graff believes Ender will be the one they're looking for. But can Ender learn the skills necessary before it's too late for mankind? (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Asa Butterfield did amazing work in his role as Ender Wiggin. The strength and brilliance of the character are easy to see, as are Ender's doubts and fears. Some really nice performances too by all the young actors involved. Harrison Ford was a great choice to play Colonel Graff. And Ford was in the film a lot more than I anticipated, which was awesome. The choice of Viola Davis to play Major Gwen Anderson not only complemented Ford's acting but also proved the perfect foil for the Colonel as Ender moves up the ranks. I also loved the work by Nonso Anozie. This is the second feature I've seen him in, and he plays his parts so very well.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Because of the awesome efforts of the special effects team and others, this is definitely one of those films that must be seen in IMAX if at all possible. The cool Formic mother ships and the giant swarms of fighters as well as the Earth's fleets and its own ships made for some interesting fighting scenes. Even better were the changing points of view over the entire system as Ender shifted the virtual screen's direction how ever he needed them, calling for closeups, side angles, and more.
The Formic's home planet as well as the changed planet with the human base looked great - though I will say the whole jagged landscape for alien worlds is starting to get way overused recently. But it did look wonderful...
Totally loved the cool Zero G battle area. And the work on the Mind Game and the Formic themselves looked incredible. And wait until you see the cool people and fighter formations. Nice!
3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: I read the book "Ender's Game" back when it first came out in 1985, so I remember little about it. However, this worked in my favor, as I had no expectations and also couldn't anticipate key points, and was therefore surprised by several turning points in the film.
A number of themes run the length of the movie - the precarious decisions when trying to balance our actions between peace and violence, fear winning over reason, nothing is strictly black or white, always question everything, and others. I loved how several of these only become clear later in the film and not when they're actually presented. Like Ender, the audience must make what they can with the information given, even when we realize some is being withheld.
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: There are a number of fights in the film, and not all of them during training. But regardless of the type, they were expertly done. The mock battles in the Zero G chamber had great timing, were ingenious, and the kids made it all look so easy. The non sanctioned fights had a beauty and intensity all their own.
5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: The special effects were outstanding, and so was the cinematography. Just watching the shuttle depart from the basin between an amazing set of mountains took my breath away. And the sweeping views of the academy with Earth in the background, as well as all the views on the different planets that were visited made the extra ticket price for IMAX totally worth it. The space shots in the meteor belt, during Ender's travel to the final training camp, and others were beautifully done.
Conclusion: "Ender's Game" is most definitely worth seeing. The awesome graphics, cinematography, special effects, and acting, make it one of the better films of 2013. If you can manage it, definitely see it in IMAX. The extra detail is totally worth it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)
(Two awesome SF flicks in the same year - who knew? And about time! Yeah!)