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Old 02-13-14, 08:32 AM   #1
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Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review



Title: Ender's Game

Movie:
Video:
Audio:
Extras:


HTS Overall Score:83




Summary
The human race is fascinated by the enormity and vastness of space. Are we the only ones out there? Are there others out there? And more importantly, do they mean us harm? We’ve had a myriad of human/alien conflict books and films, and one idea runs through the various stories, like a red hot wire. We WILL be victorious. Many science fiction stories deal with humanoid species, ala the majority of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”, but there is also another vein of Sci-fi that is fascinated with the non-humanoid species and seems to like visualizing them as bugs, or at least bug like. “Starship Troopers” made millions on the ideas of an intelligent bug like species threatening the human race and Orson Scott Card’s book “Ender’s Game” capitalized on the theory years before “Starship Troopers” was given birth. “Ender’s Game” (the film) has been in development hell for 17 years, languishing by the wayside as Card refused to give up control of the script due to the wanting a screenplay that did the film justice. Years later he finally relinquished control but kept an honorary producers credit (rumors and insiders speak to the fact that he may have the producers credit, but the majority of the work was done by others) and let the film go all the way to the end.

It seems that the bug like species, named the Formic, attacked Earth 50 odd years ago trying to establish a colony for their ever expanding population. Nearly wiped out, Earth was saved by the brilliant commander Mazer Rakham. Driving the Formic back, they were able to confine the Formics to their home planet and set up bases of operations just outside the alien’s borders. Now, 50 years later, the humans are preparing to go to war again, as the Formic’s military strength grows with each passing year.

In an effort to gain the upper hand, the military leaders have decided to start recruiting the most brilliantly gifted children as they barely pass the double digits. The theory is that when you begin training at a young age, when they are more moldable, their skills are exploited before a lifetime practicing the wrong way creates a less suitable commander. The same theory applies to musicians and sports stars, where most recruiters look for an extremely young pupil, that won’t have all the hang-ups of an older student. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), sees greatness in one Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield), a child genius who has an impeccable eye for strategy. Pulling him into the program it becomes obvious that Ender is beyond brilliant and gives the military hope for a fleet commander who can actually defeat the Formic’s once and for all.

Putting Ender into battle school the young boy is pitted against every student in the class, each one vying for the upper hand, to prove to everyone that they are the best. Rising through the ranks quickly, utilizing his skills as a strategist he maneuvers through all the challenges before him as a chess master does an opponent. However, in the back ground the Colonel and the rest of the military are playing a chess game of their own, moving Ender and his opponents around, playing the boy without his knowledge for an even greater goal. For the goal they have in mind very well may break Ender, or turn him into the greatest and most ruthless military commander ever.


I haven’t read “Ender’s Game” in a very long time, but a quick brush up on the source material makes it very obvious that much of the subtlety and exposition about the characters is condensed quite a bit in order to make a single 2 hour film. While most of the left out information doesn’t hinder the movie at all, the passages about Ender’s dreams, and their effects on him, DO matter a great deal and as a result the one major hindrance of the film is the ending. The ending seems to come abruptly and a bit rushed, being that much of the events that led up to his final decision are truncated from the film and only referenced a few times. Up until that point I was going to give the film a solid 4/5 rating, but that ending left me feeling a little bit let down from the last hour and a half.

Asa Butterfield and the rest of the children do a good job of portraying kids, who are forced into a situation that they aren’t really emotionally mature enough to handle. While trying to be as military as possible, their natural child like natures are in conflict with the harsh realities that an adult life can and even their petty squabbles show a nice mixture of maturity and immaturity as they struggle in their battle of clawing their way up the military ladder presented them. Ben Kingsley is great in his role as the distinguished Mazer, but seems a bit of wasted talent for the small amount of time spent on screen and I was ecstatic to see Harrison Ford actually ACTING, for once, instead of sleep walking his way through the film as his last couple of movies have turned out to be. There was a light in his eyes and a spirit in his acting that showed he was actually embracing the role.

The film itself has some great premises, but suffers from being extremely formulaic in its presentation. Ender is given an obstacle and sooner or later he conquers that obstacle, only to be replaced with another one that he soon defeats. There’s some forward momentum as soon as he reaches command school, where he begins his final set of simulations and is graded on whether to be promoted to commander of the fleet, but the ending jars it down a bit, as it seems to come from left field with a lack of exposition leading up to that final decision. Overall, it’s a solid sci-fi flick that is marred by some shaky writing and an ending that was rushed just a bit. For once I would have actually rather they ADDED another 20 minutes to the film, instead of trimming the fat.

Rating:

Rated PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material


Video
As usual, Summit Entertainment has given us a top rate video transfer with some serious pop and pizazz. The colors are richly saturating the entire image with plenty of blues, greens, oranges and reds, switching from the soft greens and browns of the planet earth, to the brightly lit hallways and uniforms of the military training school in space. Contrasts are spot on for the majority of the time, but there are instances of blooming where the blacks are washed out a bit as a result. However, the rest of the time blacks are DEEEEP and inky, with tons of shadow detail to boot. The detail is phenomenal whether it be the crisp and clean uniforms that the recruits wear, or the facial hear and individual pores and blemishes on Asa Butterfield’s face. The result is an image that looks crystal clear and free from any digital artifacting or compression issues in my eyes. Simply fantastic overall.







Audio
Now the audio track is every bit as impressive as the video encode, as Summit gives us one aggressive 7.1 DTS-HD MA track that gives us some serious LFE action from the first few minutes of the film. The majority of the film is filled with a nice throbbing low end that accents itself nicely with all of the battle simulations and fisticuffs that the recruits are experiencing the film. Then, out of nowhere, the LFE raises itself to a level that will vibrate you to the very core of your being, with an incredibly low and powerful extension below the 20 hz line. I never once felt that the dynamics were out of balance as the dialogue is clear and well centered and the film itself gives range to a wide dynamic range, registering the softer dialogue and punctuates itself with some thundering special effects. The clarity detailed and gives us a lot of ambient noises that are embedded into every channel of the 7.1 track. Surrounds were excellent, for the most part, but I did notice that there wasn’t As MUCH immersion as I would have liked. It wasn’t anything distracting, just a little bit less presence than I was expecting in those rear channels.



Extras:
• Audio Commentary with Director Gavin Hood
• Audio Commentary with Producers Gigi Pritzker and Robert Orci
• "Ender's Game": The Making of Ender's Game
• Inside the Mind Games
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Theatrical Trailers










Overall:

“Ender’s Game” is an entertaining Sci-fi story, adapted from of the of the best Sci-fi book series that I know of. My only complaint is that so much is cut from the book that it can slightly hammer the comprehension from someone who is going into the film without any information from the books, especially in the ending. However the film is still a lot of fun and definitely worthy of a watch, despite my grumblings as a long time book fan. With it’s fantastic audio/video scores the film is going to be a demo worthy watch and a great adventure for those fans of strategic, military science fiction. Definitely check it out.

Additional Information:

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Written by: Gavin Hood
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish DD 5.1, English: DD 2.0
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 113
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 11th, 2014


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Recommendation: Watch It!


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Old 02-13-14, 09:47 AM   #2
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


Thanks for the review. I will put this down as a movie to check out. Thanks once again!


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Old 02-13-14, 10:01 AM   #3
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


Thanks for the review Mike!

My son went to see this as he really enjoyed the books, and he was just as disappointed as you were in the ending. A buy for me most likely though as one can never have enough audio/video demo material!


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Old 02-13-14, 10:46 AM   #4
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


I am excited to see this. Hopefully I will get to this weekend. Sadly it will be on a laptop with no surround sound or subs. Poor me. Poor me


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Old 02-13-14, 09:16 PM   #5
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


Saw this movie in Dolby Atmos during its theatrical run. The scenes with the cadets training in the zero gravity games had dialogue coming from all around me. Hoping some of that directionality in the surround field remained intact in the (non-Atmos) mix on the Blu-ray release.


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Old 02-14-14, 03:02 PM   #6
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


I picked this up sight unseen, but I'm pretty sure I'll still enjoy it. My wife loved the book, so we'll see how she likes it as well. Thanks for the review!


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Old 02-15-14, 02:10 PM   #7
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


When I arrived home yesterday, this Blu-Ray was on the dining room table. My wife and I watched it last night and we both enjoyed it immensely.

Any film based on a book (or series of books) will suffer the effects of being condensed into a story that unfolds in two hours. Although I am completely unfamiliar with the basis for this film, I had no problem following the story and anticipated the ending. Yes, the story was obviously truncated, but it progressed in an orderly fashion. Albeit briefly, the ending was foreshadowed.

The image throughout this movie is positively glorious. The sound, although ridiculously inappropriate in the space scenes, is tremendous. If anyone is searching for something to use for a subwoofer demonstration, look no further than this Blu-Ray. Sure, the story is a bit formulaic (aren't most?), but it is well scripted and acted. The plot isn't insultingly stupid and it isn't subordinate to the 'action' it delivers (as so many films seem to be these days). This Blu-Ray is definitely a stunning choice for a demo, but it's also quite an enjoyable film.


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Old 02-16-14, 11:40 AM   #8
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


I've been an Ender fan dying to see this book made into film for years. While I wasn't entirely disappointed with it, I wasn't as happy with this as I was with the Lord of the Ring films. The disc is definitely demo quality material. But too much of the substance of all the characters was just left out. If the movie had been true to the book, it would have gotten an R-rating (death knell for ticket revenue) and been 3.5 hours long.

But like Orson Scott Card said, the book was already the best format and venue for the story.


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Old 02-19-14, 02:11 PM   #9
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


I watched this flick this weekend as a Redbox Rental. I thought the movie was very well done from both a visual affects and sound delivery. The surrounds were always going and it sure did give my a sub a good workout. I heard things rattle in the basement. I thought the ending was really weak until I read this thread. It now makes far more sense to me.


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Old 03-24-14, 05:38 AM   #10
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Re: Ender's Game - Blu-ray Review


I've read and re-read the book over the years and to me, I didn't think it could become a movie. Too much of the internal and dream dialouge doesn't translate to movies well. So when I saw the movie, I was disappointed. I didn't get from the movie the same sense of Ender getting shut out by the school admins as I did in the book. He met some chracters waaay to early and the fights/conlficts that shaped who he was and how easily he made the decisions in the end weren't there or were badly represented. Him using the game room consoles to learn the startegies, where did that go? I think they should have had an extra 30mins (at least) on the movie. When he became dragon army commander they went through a process of wearing him down with new and worse challenges, the film flunked on that one. Commander's school...well...left something to be desired. Where was Petra breaking down and him realizing he was burning through his friends?

As a side note, and realize it was an acceptable cut, was his borther/sister taking over the political scene on earth. Even though it did influnece why he went to the stars in the end.

Ok, rant over...lol. But otherwise a decent Sci-fi popcorn flick for those who haven't read the book(s)


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