by Adam Riske
Ender’s Game is not a complete success, but I admire its balls. That's a weird thing to say, but I can’t think of another way of saying it. This movie is thumbing its nose at several things including the military’s potential ability to hive evil group-think behavior, children who are deemed “gifted” before they’ve done anything and, most importantly video game culture. I suspect kids going into the movie, who are unaware of the book’s trajectory, will find themselves in the uncomfortable position that many teens and college-age adults found themselves in during Spring Breakers. I never thought I’d say that about Ender’s Game, but it’s asking big questions of its young target audience with the goal of making them uncomfortable. For that I commend the movie (or maybe more specifically, the story from the book; I’ll give credit to the movie because I haven’t read the book and can only speak to what I have seen on screen). The movie works.
42 earlier this year, Ford is having a strong 2013.
The rest of the performances are inconsistent. Viola Davis plays one of Ford’s colleagues, but she is wasted. Ben Kingsley also doesn’t have much to do and turns up for only the last 30 minutes. Most of the screen time is given to child actors who are actually pretty bad, with school play line readings and zero screen presence (the exception being maybe Hailee Steinfeld from the True Grit remake). The other main performance besides Ford is Asa Butterfield as Ender. Butterfield suffers the fate of most of his child co-stars, as he’s not the most interesting of actors. However, he is well-cast in this movie since Ender is meant to be sort of a meek wallflower that gets by on his calculating nature and his intelligence. He seems like a kid that asserts his aggression by playing a lot of violent video games and that is right for the character. He’s someone that is good at heart but with the capacity to be Michael Corleone in his efficiency and capacity for wrongdoing.
The direction by Gavin Hood (who also wrote the script) is solid, with the movie moving at a quick pace and the somewhat exciting action sequences always making spatial sense. I also thought the production design was interesting to look at, particularly a zero-gravity training chamber where the child soldiers conduct war games while floating in air and laser tagging each other. This is a step up for Hood from his last tentpole movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Ender’s Game was a real surprise. It's a movie that turns the “chosen one” trope on its head and has many worthwhile things to say to a target audience that I hope will ask their parents questions as they leave the theater. While it’s not a science fiction classic (like many would claim the book of being), the film adaptation of Ender’s Game is the type of intelligent science fiction that audiences should have the opportunity to see more often.
I just don't know if I can get past my distaste for Orson Scott Card enough to ever spend money on a movie he's involved with. His hateful, homophobic rhetoric has soured me so much on his work (a la Mel Gibson) that I just don't want to support him. It's odd to me that you say the movie questions groupthink, as he personally trades almost exclusively in hateful groupthink. I may be being unfair, but my only brother is a gay man and a good man, and knowing that Card spews hatred against people like my brother makes me want to give any of his work a rather wide berth.ReplyDelete
What do you (and by you I mean anybody reading this) think about that sort of thing? How much does a creator's personal politics or attitude influence your approach to his or her work?
Sorry, I had started my reply before your comment was there and then came back to it - I think that OSC is a piece of shit and though I don't like the idea of supporting him in any way, I just feel there are too many other artists involved who don't deserve to be punished by people boycotting this movie just because of that one piece of shit. I'm sure behind just about every movie there's at least one racist, sexist and/or homophobic asshole (Michael Bay?), so if you're going to start not watching stuff based on not liking the politics/philosophy of an individual involved, you probably won't be left with much to watch.Delete
Anyway, that's just my opinion and the reason I would not participate in a general boycott of Ender's Game, I can at least understand, if not agree with, why you would.
You make a really good point there, Sol. I'm torn because I don't want to close myself off to movies because of things that have nothing to do with the movie itself. At the same time, I hate the thought of someone like Card using my money to propagate his odious hate-speech. On the third hand (I'm Judd Nelson in The Dark Backward, I guess) I'm a Jewish guy who paid to see The Passion of the Christ in a theater so three hands notwithstanding I don't really have a leg to stand on if I'm ok supporting one bigot over another. You're right though, there's certainly much more than just one person involved in the making of a movie.Delete
I'd just skip it if you're on the fence for personal reasons. It's not THAT GOOD :-)Delete
You raise a good point and an important one. I can only speak for what I got out of the movie but I found it to be critical of group-think. Perhaps the filmmakers, knowing the controversy around the author, tinkered with the message of the book somewhat. I can't say for sure. In the case of watching Enders Game, I did not have the politics of the author in my mind at all, mainly because I have no history with the book. I just watched it as a movie that came out this weekend. Kind of like how I watched After Earth and didn't think about Scientology.ReplyDelete
For me, a creator's personal politics can factor into my assessment of their work but I take it on a case by case basis. I didn't find any homosexual text or subtext in Enders Game (the movie) so this case didn't call attention to itself. Nor did Mel Gibson being in Machete Kills make me think of his anti-semetic tirades (and I am a Jewish man). I thought about him being an icky person but that was about it.
Good review Adam, I have read the book and a number of the sequels and thought they were great (the first in particular) but had fairly low expectations for the movie as I was getting a "for teens" vibe from it, which I would argue the book was not. Glad to hear it's worth a watch, even if it does make you a homophobe for watching it! Sorry, it looks like you may have purposefully avoided any mention of that nonsense, but I had to bring it up - I'd like to think there aren't any F-Heads who would punish the 100s of people who worked on this movie because the original author is an asshole, so hopefully it's a non-issue here!ReplyDelete
Excellent film. I would like to see a sequel. It would be very cool if the developers of computer games would have made something game based on this film in any genre. I think fans of the book and the movie will enjoy it a lot. I will transfer my idea to the company Argentics.ReplyDelete