Whenever a movie is coming out based off a book I've read and enjoyed, I know it's going to be hard for me to view it without constantly comparing the two while watching. That's why I'll wait on The Hunger Game series to avoid this problem. Ender's Game was going to be a tricky adaptation, so was looking forward to how they handled it all. It is a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel by Orson Scott Card and one of my favorites. I tried to go in with low expectations, but couldn't help for it to escalate tremendously as the release day was getting closer. Changes were made and aspects dropped, but certain parts thrilled me as being such a huge fan. I am defiantly mixed on Ender's Game.
Taking place in the 22nd centenary, the worlds governments created an international fleet that's purpose is to train gifted children for military service. Humans suffered millions of losses when an insect-like alien attacked, and don't want to be caught defenseless if more ensue. Colonel Hyram Graff (Harrison Ford) singles out Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a young humble genius for promotion to battle school for more advanced training. Colenel Graff believes this boy is key to their survival, and that he's humanity's last hope.
The acting never blew me away. There were no powerhouse performances capable of carrying the movie through rough patches, or simply being anything really noteworthy. It wasn't bad, just not special in any way shape or form. If we get sequels, this issue could become bigger than it is. Multiple books follow Ender's Game, so depending on if box office success is accomplished, we could be looking at a few more of these. A great cast is pretty much essential for long lasting projects. The Hunger Games seems to be in good hands. Harry Potter certainty was. Twilight was not, and we all saw how that panned out. The core cast will need to improve for me to truly invest in the emotional depth the characters go through; particularly with our main one. Let's start with the lead, Asa Butterfield.
Now, Ender is a difficult role to tackle. There are layers of complexity to him. He's not a loud character and shows little to no expression on his face. It's all in his head, and him dealing with major inner turmoil with the things he has to do. Butterfield plays it cold in an extremely emotionless way. The script deserves a portion of blame for sure, but there is not much charisma injected in. He plays on the intellectual part fine, but fails to capture enough depth that the audience who hadn't read the book needed to care. I was jumping for joy when Harrison Ford was cast. Honestly, I was disappointed. Sure he is solid, but seemed as if that effort wasn't entirely present. Had yet to see Hailee Steinfeld since True Grit, was also excited for this casting. She wasn't given an abundance of stuff to work with, but did the best with what she got. You can say the exact same for the remainder of the cast.
My biggest complaint is that everything feels rushed. Most of the time lately, movies have been coming out that are far too long. In this case, it was far too short. A film adaptation is supposed to be able to stand on its own; this is where another problem arises. There are numerous insights, especially in the story that wold only make sense to someone who read the book. With the running time being what it is, the movie doesn't get time to explore all of the crucial elements. I could fill in the many gaps, but many of my friends and family who saw it couldn’t. Ender suffers from this, along with the overall story, which contributes, to the twist ending not delivering a big enough impact as it should have. Ender's whole journey isn't fully displayed. We get a few scenes of each rank and before we know it he's nearly done. We don't get to see the extent of how broken the character is by the end. I think things would have fared better if this was two and a half hours. The story could have flowed smoother allowing plot points to breath and fully develop.
The visuals were absolutely amazing. Could not have asked for anything better, brought everything from the novel to life beautifully. The whole space station looks outstanding. The real highlight in that department, though, is the battle room. Aside from the look, the simulations had a unique feel to them. Didn't appear like simply another rip-off of your typical space battle. I loved watching those sequences. The overall look and cinematography were fantastic - my hat is off to Donald McAlpine.
I don’t want to appear as if I think there's nothing good here – that is not the case. I'm curious to hear more of what people think who have not read the source material. Ender's Game was entertaining, but fails to go deeper with the story and characters even with the source material having plenty of that. Wasn't a fan of the exposition being thrown in constantly. Dialog was far from top notch as well as their being bad placed humor. Production design was the movie's biggest strength, no one can deny it is not nice to look at. This is going to be something people are split on. For me personally, felt similar to a B-movie, but not much more.