HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Ender's Game
HTS Overall Score:77
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.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14457[/img]4K UltraHD discs come with the new HEVC H.265 (instead of the H.264 encoding on Blu-rays) that allows for much more data stored on the same sized disc. Thankfully 4K Blu-rays are coming on much larger than normal Blu-ray discs and thus will require a new player that uses the new HDCP 2.2 specs. "Ender's Game" was shot on Epic Red Cameras and given a 2K DI mastering process so I would assume that much of this is an upscale like "Kingsman" was. I'm not AWARE of a native 4K resolution Master or source but the results are still fairly impressive to the naked eye.
My 4K Samsung is an HDR to SDR TV, so it’s hard to say 100% the FULL benefits of the new HDR color spaces allowed on the new format, but this will be pretty close. The Samsung 8500 Blu-ray player is also the only Blu-ray player on the market right now so choices are pretty limited, but the HDMI handshake issues that I had on "Sicario" were much diminished. Only a couple of times did I actually notice a flicker, and the major one was during the opening credit scene.
The colors are the main advancement here, with deeper blacks, richer colors and better contrast shining through. Even though I don't have a fully HDR NATIVE screen the uptick in colors saturation and richness levels are quite impressive. As I've mentioned before, 4K UltraHD discs are more of an evolution of Blu-ray and the increases in fine detail and color saturation are just that. An evolution of the original amazing picture the 1080p Blu-ray was blessed with a couple of years ago.
I can't give the score a 4.5/5 score like the Blu-ray did due to the slight softness of the image compared to some of the really new eye candy releases that are 4K resolution native and as such the score drops to a 4.0/5. The same impressive colorging and fine detail is present as the Blu-ray with some added benefits of deeper blacks and sharper clarity, but I have this gut feeling that a 4K source could have made this one a bit better. Still a good looking 4K Blu-ray and solid upgrade for those of you with the displays to take advantage of it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14458[/img]Utilizing an upgraded Dolby Atmos audio track, the film gains a slight boost in surround activity that adds to the impressiveness of the already incredible 7.1 mix from the Blu-ray. 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, and the slight lack of immersion that I felt in the original Blu-ray is enhanced as the overheads add a layer of density and directionality that just wasn't there original. the sounds of space craft shift from the sides to overhead as well, making you feel right at the core of the track. the LFE throbs and pounds with deep intensity and pretty much doesn't give up till the credits rolled. I could be wrong but I felt like the LFE was boosted for this release over the 7.1 DTS-HD MA track from a couple years ago, as I felt a few more pant flapping moments than I originally remembered.
(Blu-ray Special Features)
• 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
“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. The increased resolution and upgraded audio is certainly worth a look, especially since the already impressive 7.1 track is upgraded to a more robust use of the surround channels. Sadly there are no extras on the 4k Blu-ray itself but rather relegated to the 1080p Blu-ray much like the other titles released so far, making it a bare bones disc. These new 4K Blu-rays are a bit of a shot in the dark as I try and analyze HOW it will be graded and what star rating to give the video as it is now seperate from the Blu-ray rating. Still, this is a solid upgrade and if you have a nice new 4K resolution TV then this makes for some good demo material.
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Written by: Gavin Hood
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD Core)
Runtime: 113 Minutes
4K Blu-Ray Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Buy Ender's Game On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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