based on a book by Orson Scott Card written in 1985 before the Iraqi
wars that were started by the Presidents Bush against an opponent that
had not attacked us and who had no perceptible intent to attack, so Card
clearly did not have these specific incidents in mind. But coming as it
does after both wars, it seems a stinging rebuke of ďpreventive warsĒ
(the first Iraqi war might not have been ďpreventive,Ē but the second
on a dubious premise, to say the least, the future of the world is put
in the hands of one pre-teenager, 12-year-old Ender Wiggins (Asa
Butterfield, who gave such a good performance in 2011ís Hugo), to
protect the earth against a force that invaded and lost a cataclysmic
battle against earth 50 years previous, thanks to an heroic Ben
Kingsley. Harrison Ford is a leader who has the task of fighting off a
suspected invasion from the same force. Ford is looking for a child who
can lead the defense. Apparently the battle will be akin to a video game
and the feeling is that the only experts in video games are children who
can think and act outside the box.
Cardís book, the children are aged from approximately 6 to 15 and Ender
enrolls in the program when heís six. The movie compresses the time to
just one year, when heís 12. Trouble is that Asa was 15 when the film
was shot; he no more looks like a 12-year-old than I look like Amy
Adams; nor does Haile Steinfeld, Enderís good friend, who was 16 when
the film was shot. But the worst casting in terms of age is Moises
Arias, who is Enderís main antagonist among the cadre of children, who
was 18 when the film was shot and looks like a grown man, despite his
lack of height. So the point of the film, that the future of the earth
is in the hands of pre-pubescent children, is basically destroyed by the
film sort of follows the tenor of Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) in
which significantly older John Wayne trains a platoon of young men and
readies them for war, and they then fight the war.
Harrison Ford, in Wayneís roll, has the idea to put all these children
together so that one emerges as a leader, and one who will be able to
fight an unconventional war that will be akin to a video game, at which
Ender is an expert, and he targets Ender as that person. Most of the
film is putting the children through basic training, not to prepare them
for battle, but to choose a leader, which results in Ender having
adult-type confrontations and relationships with the others, who also
act and react in an adult manner.
Writer/director Gavin Hood (whose credits include the outstanding, but
little seen, Tsotsi, one of the best films I saw in 2006) gets
excellent supporting performances from Viola Davis (as Fordís second in
command responsible for the psychological well-being of the children),
Ben Kingsley, Steinfeld, Arias, and Abigail Breslin, Enderís sister.
production values, especially the digital cinematography (Donald M.
McAlpine), production design (Sean Haworth and Ben Procter), and special
effects (Matthew E. Butler) are beautiful and eye-popping.
yet another movie that pictures advanced aliens, creatures that can
conquer space, for heavenís sake, as huge insects who donít even have
hands. Where many space alien science fiction movies lack credence is
picturing the aliens as creatures whose ability to transcend time and
space is not credible because they are inarticulate monsters who look
like refugees from Them! (1954) or The Beast from 20,000
Fathoms (1953). Very few picture them as creatures capable of such
scientific achievements. The only one that comes readily to mind is
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) in which Michael Rennie was the
alien and he could easily be believed to be of superior intellect, but
there may have been a few more. Generally, though, these creatures are
pictured as monsters and it strains credulity to the breaking point to
believe that these are the types of creatures who can achieve such
scientific breakthroughs as space travel. Although to give this film a
little credit, Ender figures that the creatures communicate with one
another through thought transmission.
has an ending borrowed from science fiction maven Robert Heinlein, and
weíve already seen that once before this year in Oblivion. Like
the makers of Oblivion the filmmakers donít see fit to give
Heinlein any credit.
that said, and even though I got tired of it all, itís an entertaining
film. The special effects are terrific, especially the floating around
in a gravity-free environment, and thereís a lot of that. Further, if
you see this in IMAX, that is worth the price of admission all by itself
because the visual is so big and beautiful and clear.