US film (2013). Summit Entertainment/OddLot Entertainment/Chartoff Productions. Directed by Gavin Hood, starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin. Written by Gavin Hood, based on the novel Ender's Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card. 114 minutes. Colour.
Closely following the story of Orson Scott Card's novel, Ender's Game tells the story of a teenaged boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin (Butterfield), who with other precocious youths is sent to a military Space Station to be trained to fight against the Formics, an insect-like Alien race that has previously attacked Earth. Distinguishing himself with his remarkable talent for strategic thinking as a member of a fighting team, Ender is rapidly promoted by overseer Colonel Graff (Ford) to first lead his own team and then to receive advanced training in deep space, despite the misgivings of Major Gwen Anderson (Davis). After being further schooled by Mazer Rackham (Kingsley), the man who long ago thwarted the Formics' invasion, Ender leads his team in what he believes to be a simulated battle and destroys the Formics' home world; but he is then informed that he was directing an actual battle, with devastating success. Guilt-ridden over his eradication of an intelligent alien species, Ender then realizes that enigmatic scenes in an Adventure Videogame he had been playing (> Games and Sports) were messages from the Formics, who are really friendly: guided by what he had seen, he retrieves a hidden Formic egg and resolves to search through the galaxy to find a new home for the species.
While a generally well-made and faithful adaptation of a classic sf novel, Ender's Game inadvertently reveals the foundational absurdity of Card's premise, as Graff and a succession of other adults keep watching with improbable awe as the young Ender repeatedly demonstrates his utterly astounding abilities. In fact, there has never been a human civilization which looked to its youngest members for leadership in times of crises, and it is extraordinarily unlikely that humans would ever do so in the future, especially with the fate of the entire race at stake. The story of Ender's Game, then, is characteristic of juvenile novels (> Children's SF), wherein young protagonists routinely save the universe, making it appropriate that Card's novel has, in fact, been republished as a juvenile. The film's ending suggests an openness to filming a sequel based on Card's Speaker for the Dead (1986), but that vastly more mature novel seems a questionable basis for a commercially successful film; if a sequel is called for, Ender's Shadow (1999) and its sequels would stand a better chance of being greenlighted. [GW]
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