No matter what you think of Orson Scott Card’s personal politics, there is no denying that Ender’s Game is a solid, strong and involving novel. It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did for a film adaptation for this one to come along, but it finally did in 2013, and is my next stop on the Sci-Fi Chronicles book.
Asa Butterfield takes the lead as Ender Wiggin, but big names Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley overshadow him. Despite the star power, Butterfield is serviceable in the role, and Hailee Steinfeld as his friend Petra is perfectly cast. Abagail Breslin makes a brief appearance as Ender’s sister Valentine.
The heart of the story, sees young Ender recruited to a training school for the International Fleet, to confront a lead the way against the threat of the alien race known as the Formics. What the film doesn’t do, which the novel did brilliantly well, is explore the idea of child soldiers.
The movie almost better serves as a companion piece to the novel, as longtime readers will recognise the beats, and know the importance of what they are viewing, even if the filmmakers don’t, or just ignore other sequences.
That’s not to say the film can’t stand on its own, it can, it just doesn’t have the same emotional impact as the novel did, especially when everything plays out in the climax.
All of the young actors are competent in their roles, while Ford and Kingsley serve as their on-screen teachers and commanders. Ford is grizzled and grumpy, and Kingsley sports a Maori look and sound.
There are moments that are present that I loved in the book, and were happy to see them realised, though not quite as I had imagined them. The biggest one being the battle room sequences, not exactly how my mind’s eye saw them, but still nicely realised, as were the classroom scenes.
The effects are solid, and the outer space sequences are well-crafted. The game that Ender plays on his tablet looks suitably game-like but doesn’t have the insight into it and its results that you get in the book.
The film doesn’t tackle all the issues that the book does, setting most of it aside simply for a basic coming of age, action sci-fi tale, with a bit of a moral, but it none of it is given the depth of the original novel.
Like I said, this one serves better as a companion piece to the book, and fans of it will no doubt enjoy and recognise some of their favourite moments.
Sadly, I don’t think we’re going to see any of the sequels come to fruition because their subject matter is heavier, and less conducive to a science fiction tent pole franchise.