Review: Ender’s Game


Director:Gavin Hood

Cast:Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin

Running Time:114.00


For a movie with as long a production history as Ender's Game, the finished product feels rushed. Like too many science fiction films and novels, there's far too much exposition to get through before the real story grips us.

To sum what the movie takes ages to tell is that an alien race tried to take over Earth. They were defeated and sent packing to their home world. But now the international armies recruit preteens to become commanders should the aliens return.

Asa Butterfield, so great in Martin Scorsese's Hugo, strikes the right balance of intrigued and terrified as the title character. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) takes an interest in Ender after he encounters a bully and wins, sending the bully to the hospital.

Graff exploits Ender's strategic mind and propensity for violence, quickly moving him up the ranks of various military academies. Unfortunately, this means other characters that could potentially be more interesting than Ender (because, man, does this kid cry a lot) are barely seen and never given a chance to show any depth.

But the film's biggest problem is that it has to serve two purposes: it has to be both an effects-heavy blockbuster and "” depending on your reading of the film's big twist "” a staunch anti-war statement.  It would have been interesting to see how a director like Duncan Jones, who's already made two sci-fi films about the government exploiting its soldiers, would have likely nailed the right balance. Gavin Hood, director of that horrendous first Wolverine movie, wobbles the whole time.

Still, as someone who's never read the books and only knows Orson Scott Card based on his recent  political statements, I was never, ever bored with this movie. Even though Summit is still a small studio, it's spent money well here. And that twist still packs an emotional wallop, even if it wasn't entirely earned.

For a film that's taken so long to get made, the mere fact that it should please both general audiences and die-hard fans of Card's book is a small miracle in itself. It's a solid sci-fi film in its own right, which makes it worth seeing. But unlike Gravity, this isn't one for the ages.  


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

Leave a Reply