The highly anticipated Ender’s Game – which opens Friday (Nov. 1) on area screens will be appreciated by some.
However, it will likely cause just as many moviegoers to shrug their shoulders and utter “meh.” Perhaps you have to be a fan of novelist Orson Scott Card’s series of novels to truly enjoy what’s up on the screen and the work it took to adapt the first book for a film audience.
More than likely, however, indifference will greet the languid, bland Ender’s Game, a sci-fi flick that puts teens squarely at the forefront of having to fight an intergalactic war to save the Earth.
This would be compelling stuff had the characters been something more than cookie cutter, slice-and-bake kind of folks seen in slice-and-bake type movies.
It’s not difficult to surmise that Ender (Asa Butterfield), the lead character exists in the world as an outsider as he tries to make his way through military training as a teen. Nor is it difficult that Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), Ender’s mentor is a crusty ol’ military sort.
As a mukety muck with the International Military, he has to be tough, gruff and take no stuff.
He personally recognizes the leadership skills in Ender that he and the people of Earth hope will allow for the defeat of an alien species that invaded Earth years before only to eventually be sent packing by a brave pilot.
Since then, Earth has been preparing for their return, but Graff and the powers that be have awaited the arrival of that one person who can lead Earth’s forces on a victorious path.
Ender displays those qualities, but he has to endure a process to prove himself to Graff. What happens is predictable, but unfortunately it’s not very compelling.
That matches the performances. For a story that supposedly aspires to be epic and inspiring, everything comes off as rather vanilla, boring and a bit stiff at times.
That does a disservice to Butterfield who was so charming, mesmerizing and charismatic in Hugo. There’s not much to like about the character he portrays here.
As for Harrison Ford, he’s Harrison Ford. He’s done characters such as Graff in his sleep. He amps the gruffness and scowls more but that’s about it.
Hood directs with a subtle touch. In some cases probably too subtle. He doesn’t quite strike that balance between characters, story and the epic nature of the material. Ultimately the film suffers.
Ender’s Game will likely make a ton of cash, guaranteeing a sequel. If that happens, here’s hoping they take things up a level or two.
Movie: Ender’s Game
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Viola Davis
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Rated: PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material
Running time: 114 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com