Opening this weekend is Ender’s Game based on the best selling novel starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin. From the film’s official synopsis:
In the near future, a hostile alien race called the Formics have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young minds to find the future Mazer.
Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy but strategically brilliant boy, is recruited to join the elite. Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult challenges and simulations, distinguishing himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham himself to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race.
For every Hunger Games or Twilight, there are a slew of Young Adult/teen/tween books to movies that bomb at the box office. This year alone we saw The Host, Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones disappear as fast as they entered. I’ve never read any of these books and you can include Ender’s Game in that group. Going into the movie I knew very little about it. I knew it seemed to be a bit more science fiction based than the others, maybe a bit more geared to boys, but I figured it would have some terrible love interest that plagues the genre.
So what did I think of the movie? I didn’t hate it. Sure that doesn’t sound like a glowing positive, but it’s basically my reaction to it. It’s not as bad as I expected it to be and you know what? I’d probably watch a sequel. I liked the size and scope of the movie. Sure I saw it in IMAX so maybe that really sold it, but the look of the movie felt big, space was wide open and you felt like you were there watching. The floating games were cool to look at and Harrison Ford playing the grumpy commander actually fit this time around.
Asa Butterfield is definitely coming into his own as an actor. The Hugo star is transforming from child actor to teen actor and is doing a good job of it. If this becomes a franchise, he will definitely be able to grow with the character. And unlike other films in this teen genre, I’m glad they didn’t shove a love story down our throats. They hinted at one with Hailee Steinfeld so we shall see if it develops more.
The film has its flaws of course. I thought they spent way too much time on the training and preparing without much development for us to care about many of the characters. Ender himself has very little backstory before it gets thrust on us that he’s the “one” they need. This being the first of a potential series, it’s hard to decide what is necessary and what isn’t for viewers. It’s a problem I had with The Hunger Games. They assumed everyone read the book and had scenes/events that made no sense to me, someone who hadn’t read the book. I’ve not read this so I can’t say whether or not fans will like the film version.
The movie also felt like many other science fiction films. The alien type creatures reminded me of Starship Troopers. The way they destroyed the first wave of attacks (which they show repeatedly) looks straight out of Independence Day. Even Ender is a bit Neo-ish from The Matrix.
I’m expecting Ender’s Game to most likely win the weekend with around $25 million. There’s a mixed bag opening against, but this is the biggest draw unless Bad Grandpa’s great word of mouth keeps it at number one. It’s one of the better Young Adult book/movies I’ve seen in a long time, but then again that’s really not saying much. The target audience will probably make it a hit and get a sequel out of it.