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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Movie Review - Ender's Game

Ender's Game (2013)
Starring Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, and Viola Davis
Directed by Gavin Hood

Fifty years prior to the events that start unfolding in Ender's Game (which, in turn, takes place many years in the future), an alien race of bug-like creatures known as the Formics attacked Earth, killing millions.  During that attack, the mysterious and elusive fighter pilot Mazer Rackham seemingly sacrificed himself by ramming into one of the alien spacecrafts which caused the attack to stop and the Formics to retreat for some unknown reason.

For the subsequent fifty years, the Formics have remained quiet on their home planet, but they appear to be building their army for another attack.  The US military has started a program recruiting intelligent young folks to become commanders of their aviation fleet.  In the program, the young recruits study the work of Mazer Rackham as well as taking part in virtual reality simulations that prepare them to work as a team as well as become cognizant of the mind of the enemy.  One of these recruits is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) and director/screenwriter Gavin Hood's film tells his tale.

Although Ender's Game does a decent job placing us into the mindset of a young teen being forced to deal with the heaviness of "saving his home planet," there's surprisingly very little tension created.  The biggest reason for this is because we really aren't witness to any battles between the Formics and humans.  Everything is set up as a virtual "game" of sorts and after seeing the umpteenth practice by Ender and his fellow recruits, you find yourself getting antsy from boredom.  While the special effects are okay, they aren't enough to keep your mind off the fact that we're just watching kids train and not seeing anything that really holds any significant merit.

In addition, I'm not quite sure Asa Butterfield was properly cast as the title character -- one who needs  to convey strength and hutzpah in order succeed in the way his character does.  I liked Butterfield very much in Hugo where his wide-eyed wonderment perfectly fit in that film's aesthetic.  Here, he's just a bit too timid-looking to convince me that he could rally the troops (so to speak).  Admittedly, that's kind of the point -- here's a non-muscular, kinda brainy kid who takes these more fit and stereotypically more appropriate recruits and molds them into spectacular soldiers -- but something just never quite clicked for me with Butterfield's performance and character.

Ender's Game probably has quite a bit it wants to convey in terms of promoting peace instead of war -- Ender finds himself emotionally conflicted with this notion throughout the entire film -- but it doesn't succeed all that well on that front.  Instead, any grand intentions of created something deep and meaningful fall flat.  That isn't to say that Ender's Game lands with a thud, but I can't say that I'd look forward to seeing any sequels made.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

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