The Reel: Audience lose ‘Ender’s Game’

Ben Conniff

t’s a dilemma that science fiction stories have grappled with for ages — how do you solve a problem like the end of the world?

Recently, Guillermo del Toro’s solution was to fight it with giant robots.

Marc Forster thought Brad Pitt could be the one to curtail our apocalypse.

But for filmmaker Gavin Hood, the issue is thrust upon a battalion of 10-year-olds.

Based on the classic novel by Orson Scott Card, “Ender’s Game” picks up in the wake of a thwarted alien invasion of Earth.

In order to prevent future attacks, America’s increasingly paranoid, trigger-happy government initiates a training program for the best and brightest children to become weapons against the insectoid alien invaders known as Formics.

Ender Wiggin (“Hugo”’s Asa Butterfield) is the greatest of these weapons, a 12-year-old tactical genius who is hand-picked by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) to lead his fellow child soldiers in an impending fight against the Formics.

Like the book, Hood’s script is fraught with the same political undertones for which Card himself has come under fire.

Parallels can still be drawn between Ender and Adolf Hitler, though more current themes of geopolitics and homophobia can clearly be discerned from Hood’s presentation.

Butterfield fares nicely as Ender, whose hardened attitude never gets in the way of empathizing with him.

No child should have to face the circumstances that Ender finds himself in, which makes him easy enough to root for.

I just wish I understood more of his backstory.

Hood doesn’t do a great job with character development, and instead chooses to push our tiny heroes directly into action, stopping only briefly to explain things as they go.

The only other significant players are Davis and Ford, whose Colonel Graff barks orders in such a garbled manner that he should’ve been called Colonel Gruff.

Davis’s motherly disposition shines through only slightly when discussing Ender’s special training procedures with Graff.

In terms of special effects, “Ender’s Game” looks like a video game, which is decidedly appropriate.

Animations are gorgeously detailed, yet slightly cartoony — similar to the style of “Borderlands” or “Red Dead Redemption.”

Most of the action in “Ender’s Game” centers around a zero-gravity training arena in outer space in which the kids essentially engage in the most elaborate laser tag matches ever conceived.

Combat enters an even larger, more frenetic scale in the last half-hour when Ender’s lightning-quick movements look as if he’s in the middle of a sugar-addled “Call of Duty” marathon.

Though it’s decently acted and choreographed, “Ender’s Game” proves to be yet another middling entry in a year full of mediocre sci-fi movies.