Movie Review: Ender's Game

By Matthew Huntley

November 5, 2013

I knew River Phoenix. River Phoenix was a friend of mine. And you, kid, are no River Phoenix.

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Aspects such as these feel condensed and slightly brushed over compared to Orson Scott Card’s novel, which offered more substance, mood and depth than the movie. It also contained more battle simulations, which contributed greatly to Ender’s psychosis and emotional state. There was also an entire subplot involving Peter and Valentine back on Earth that’s been all but removed from the film, most likely to keep the runtime down. Whether or not those unfamiliar with the book will pick up on these shortcuts remains to be seen, but I was hoping the movie would have been more drawn out so we could gain a better sense of this world and understand what Ender was going through.

That’s not to say Ender’s Game, which has been adapted and directed by Gavin Hood, doesn’t have its own virtues and efficacy. It maintains the essence of its source and, amidst all the sensationalism, explores the moral and ethical ramifications of Battle School and the idea of preparing for a war that may never come, not to mention the toll rigorous training takes on the minds and lives of young people.

On top of this, Ender’s Game works splendidly as pure, sci-fi entertainment. It’s got distinct, memorable characters; exciting action sequences; dazzling special effects; and, above all, a heart and mind. Despite the fact it negotiates the more complex subjects of the book, there are still fiery, intense and engaging scenes to behold, especially between Ender and Graff. Asa Butterfield, whom you might recognize as the titular character from Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, has a commanding presence and he and Ford create real, intense drama, the kind that resonates with us after we leave the theater. They help raise the movie beyond the label of “kiddie sci-fi flick” and bring it up to a level where even adults are listening to what they have to say and taking their words to heart.


As an initial entry in a potential movie franchise, Ender’s Game has won the first battle of getting us to care about the characters and their cause. And, if given the chance, I believe Hood, or any good filmmaker, could really hone in and examine the varying ideologies the books brought to the table, making the movies that much richer and more meaningful. Despite being published over 10 years before the first Harry Potter and, who knows, perhaps laying the latter’s groundwork, Ender’s Game is unfortunately not as popular. But I think it could reach bigger heights, and even if people only see it for its entertainment value, I believe they’ll want the story to continue and the sequels to be adapted as well. Just like Ender, it’s not done yet and has places to go.

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