I’ve just had the pleasure of watching Ender’s Game, the American science fiction film, based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card.
Fifty years prior, an alien species called the Formics attacks Earth, killing millions, but the invasion is ended by a commander (Mazer Rackham) who rams his ship into an alien vessel, stopping the rest of their fleet.
In response to the attack, humanity trains gifted children to become commanders. Cadet Andrew “Ender” Wiggin draws the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff and Major Gwen Anderson. He defeats one of his classmates (Stilson) in a space battle simulation. To test him, Graff and Anderson remove Ender’s monitor, signifying his removal from the program. Stilson, embarrassed by the loss, attacks Ender but is severely beaten. At home, Ender confesses grief over his actions to his sister Valentine and faces their older brother Peter in a fight where he is nearly choked. Graff and Anderson visit the Wiggins and offer Ender a place in Battle School.
Ender joins the other “launchies” aboard the shuttlecraft for Battle School. They are shown their accommodations, the classes, and a large glass sphere called the Battle Room, where they are to play laser tag-like games in zero gravity. Although Ender is initially looked down on, he earns respect from his peers when he tests the authority of the commanders. In his off time, Ender plays a “mind game” program where his character is presented with a no-win scenario. Frustrated, he decides to kill the presenter of the dilemma, something that Major Anderson has never seen a student attempt before.
Ender is transferred to Salamander Army, led by Commander Bonzo Madrid. Bonzo dislikes Ender, seeing him as a threat to his leadership, and orders him not to train, but Ender convinces him otherwise. Teammate Petra Arkanian takes Ender under her wing, giving him shooting lessons and training in their free time. In their first battle, Bonzo orders him to observe, but Ender spots a weakness in the enemy’s setup and, with the help of Petra, launches a surprise attack for the victory.
Ender continues the mind game, where he encounters a Formic. He then follows an animated version of Valentine to a collapsed castle, where he fights a snake, but then sees Peter. Graff gives Ender command of Dragon Army, a motley crew of cadets. As they climb the school’s rankings, they engage in a battle against two armies at once, including Bonzo’s Salamander Army. Although at a severe disadvantage, Ender devises a strategy for victory. Afterwards, Bonzo challenges Ender to a fight in the showers, but when Ender retaliates, Bonzo is critically injured. Ender resigns and returns to Earth, but Graff convinces Valentine to bring him back.
Instead of returning to Battle School, Ender and Graff head to an advance base established at a Formic colony near their home world. Ender meets Mazer Rackham, who explains what really happened that heroic day and the vulnerabilities of the Formics. Ender reunites with some of his Battle School comrades, who have taken commanding positions in the fleet. Petra commands the Molecular Detachment (MD) Device, a weapon that can disintegrate matter. Together they engage in Mazer’s battle scenarios. On the graduation final test, they are presented with a simulation of the Formic home planet.
At first, the Formics do not attack, but they eventually engage in a swarm when the MD Device wipes out a chunk of their forces. Ender gets Petra a clear shot with the device, wiping out the Formics. After Ender celebrates with his team, Graff reveals that the final simulation was the real battle and that Ender destroyed the Formics’ home planet. He tells Ender he will be remembered as a hero, but Ender says he will be remembered as a killer.
Ender realizes that the Formics tried to communicate with him in the mind game, and he rushes to a hill similar to the one he saw in the game. Inside, he finds a dying queen with a single queen egg remaining. In a letter to Valentine, Ender mentions he is heading to deep space with the egg, determined to colonize a new Formic world with it.
It was a terrific film, directed and edited brilliantly. The storyline, whilst differing slightly from the novel, held together very well, and translated to screen nicely. The zero-gravity sequences in particular were a treat to watch, and were done spectacularly. By far the best aspect of the film, however, was the acting of those involved. Everyone did a great job, forcing the audience to empathise with their characters so that you get a well-rounded view of everyone’s perspectives. Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Aramis Knight, Nonso Anozie and Suraj Parthasarathy all did very wel indeed in their respective roles. The true star of the film, however, was most definitely Asa Butterfield in the role of Ender. It was an emotional performance that ensured that everyone watching empathised with Ender, and came round to his thinking and beliefs. It was truly a special performance.
Overall, this is a great film, and one that I’d easily recommend to anyone.
Thanks for reading.