Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: Asa Butterfield the Best Player in "Ender's Game"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Ender’s Game (2013)
Running time:  114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material
DIRECTOR:  Gavin Hood
WRITER:  Gavin Hood (based on the novel by Orson Scott Card)
PRODUCERS:  Orson Scott Card, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, Alex Kurtzman, Linda McDonough, Roberto Orci, Gigi Pritzker, and Ed Ulbrich
EDITORS:  Lee Smith and Zach Staenberg
COMPOSER:  Steve Jablonsky


Starring:  Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Aramis Knight, Suraj Partha, Moises Arias, Khylin Rhambo, Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak, Nonso Anozie, and Conor Carroll

Ender’s Game is a 2013 science fiction and drama film from director Gavin Hood.  It is based on the 1985 award-winning novel, Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.  Ender’s Game the film focuses on a boy who is recruited to lead the new fight against an alien race that nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.

Ender’s Game opens in the year 2086.  An alien species called the Formics (or “Buggers”) have invaded Earth and only a legendary commander, Mazer Rackham, manages to stop the invasion, by great sacrifice.  The story jumps ahead 50 years.  Young cadet, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), has attracted the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) from International Fleet, the organization that leads the fight against the Formics.

Graff and Anderson offer Ender a spot in Battle School, the place where he would be trained to lead the battle against the Formics.  Graff has the highest hopes for the boy.  However, the very things that makes him attractive:  his intelligence, ruthlessness, and empathy, may also cause him to fail.

Although I have been planning to do so for a long time, I have yet to read Ender’s Game the novel.  I think I even once had a two-volume edition of the novel and its sequel (Speaker for the Dead) that I bought from the Science Fiction Book Club.  From what I’ve read, much about the novel is left out of Gavin Hood’s film adaptation.

That may explain why Ender’s Game the film seems shallow and superficial.  It is an entertaining movie.  It even raises some issues that have real-world relevance:  child soldiers, war-mongering military institutions, lying governments, etc.  When it comes to military training and science fiction, the narrative simply offers the familiar.  It is as if the filmmakers did not want to offer the audience anything new for fear of making them avoid Ender’s Game.  As I watched this movie, I often thought, “There’s something missing here that I want to see.”

Another problem is that the film never really delves into the characters beyond Ender Wiggin.  The female characters fare the worst.  Ender’s female academy mate, Petra Arkanian (Hailee Steinfeld), and Ender’s sister, Valentine (Abigail Breslin), are wasted.  Because of her immense talent and skill, Viola Davis makes every moment that she is on screen as Major Anderson powerful.  The latter half of the movie sorely misses what Davis brings to the film.  By the way, Harrison Ford is not good here, or, to be put it nicely, is perhaps miscast as Graff.

Asa Butterfield is the champion here, creating Ender’s Game’s most powerful moments by making the rest of the cast rise to the level of his game.  I found that he glued my attention to this story.  There are several scenes in which he gives this movie an emotional charge when it really needs it.  There is depth and layers to his performance as Ender Wiggin.  Butterfield is the reason to see Ender’s Game.  He makes me want to see a sequel to this movie and to also follow his career.

6 of 10

Thursday, March 06, 2014

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