HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Ender's Game
HTS Overall Score:83
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]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.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14458[/img]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.
• 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. 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.
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
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 11th, 2014
Buy Ender's Game Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!
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