Thursday, 17 April 2014

Ender's Game: Blu Ray Review

Ender's Game: Blu Ray Review


Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Ent

Based on Orson Scott Card's book, Ender's Game stars Hugo star Asa Butterfield as Ender Wiggin, a youngster whose ability could hold the key to the survival of the Earth.

In 2086, the planet comes under attack from an alien race known as the Formic and their incursion nearly destroyed everything. It's under that foreboding that the International Fleet lives - and led by Colonel Hyrum Graff (a gruff, shouty Harrison Ford) the children of Earth are constantly being scanned to see if they have what it takes to help them end the war. Enter young Ender Wiggin, a bullied outsider, whose fight back against a bully demonstrates the necessary tactical thinking sought by the Fleet and Graff himself. Two of Wiggin's siblings have already been thrown off the military programme for not being good enough - but the young Ender displays the brains and tactical skill-set needed to help the human race gain the upper hand.

Under the tutelage of Graff, Ender's enrolled into Battle school with others of his age and ilk, and trained to do what it takes to win the war - no matter what the cost. As Ender starts to display brilliance of thinking under the threat of attack, he starts to progress through the ranks - and Graff champions him, believing that he is their saviour.

But, at what cost to the volatile Ender, who's already displayed tendencies toward violence, believing the ends justify the means...?

Ender's Game is a slice of sci-fi, served with a large dollop of Full Metal Jacket style military training and Harry Potter Quidditchy antics on the side.

There are some nice meaty, grey, moral questions which bubble away in the film (but are left largely untouched, which is a real shame) - such as the treatment of children in wartime, the psychological effects of shaping young minds, pro-war/ anti-war sentimentalities to name but a few. Sadly though, these are jettisoned for long sequences of Ender being trained and schooled at Battle School, command class and the film's narrative and some of the characters suffer because of it. (Chiefly, Viola Davis' questioning pyschologist who simply disappears when the story decides enough is enough)

With some exceptionally well realised zero-gravity sequences, the film seems to blow all of its creative wad on making the space age look great (and it largely succeeds) rather than concentrating a little more on the human angle of the conflict which would have proved more engaging for the audience and provoked the grey matter. That said, the battle sequences in the simulations are an overload of technology, techno-babble and impressive FX, which look dizzying up on a big screen.

In terms of the human talent, Butterfield does sullen and conflicted reasonably well with some average dialogue and Ford is pretty much gruff and harsh as the stereotype of a military commander. The worst offender though is Ben Kingsley, whose legendary Mazer Rackham shows towards the end of the film. Complete with facial moko and the worst New Zealand accent I've ever heard (it starts in Kiwi, heads to South Africa before settling into Aussie territory), Kingsley's character is enigmatically introduced too late in the piece to gain anything other than guffaws at vocal crimes.

A totally abrupt ending, twist too late in the day and sudden tonal shift from pro-war to anti-war buffets the end of this film and completely shortchanges the audience. It's a shame the greyer moral areas and bigger questions are ignored in favour of an FX piece because Ender's Game has promise. However, based on poor US box office returns, despite there being other books written, it could be Game Over for this franchise before it's even begun.


Extras: The making of, deleted scenes, easter eggs, extended scenes and audio commentaries

Rating:

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