The End of the World (and the Franchise) is Nigh in "Ender's Game" | Fanboys Anonymous

The End of the World (and the Franchise) is Nigh in "Ender's Game"

Posted by Unknown Monday, November 4, 2013
Perhaps in an effort to embrace its trope, Ender's Game is a linear rocket ship ride through the training of Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield). In an effort for full disclosure, I must admit I have not read the Orson Scott Card novel, and I am writing this review with little knowledge of the literary world it is attempting to depict. Regardless of this, the sad fact still remains that if you've seen a trailer for the film, then you've seen most of what Ender's Game has to offer.

Promotional image from the 2013 film Ender's Game

The film wastes little time building the world and introducing us to its history. In a visually impressive opening sequence, Ender narrates the massive battle between humanity and the aliens known as "Formics" that threatened the existence of our race. Although we staved off one attack, we were certain the invaders would return. As such, a rigorous military school system was set in place to cultivate a generation of tactical geniuses to lead the next war. While this intro was visually pleasing and provided tactful storytelling, it ultimately became a slave to the film's budget constraints insofar as it's subsequently played numerous times throughout the film. By the end, I was actually exhausted by the sequence and disappointed that it was one of the only real battles depicted.

Following the intro, we meet two International Fleet leaders—Major Anderson (Viola Davis) and Colonel Graff (the sensational Harrison Ford)—who are meant to be Ender's good cop/bad cop mentors. Unfortunately, the two ultimately serve as little more than a plot device to try and assist the crammed storytelling. The plot isn't necessarily bad; the real issue is that the movie attempts to cover a lot of ground in a short time. Imagine a Harry Potter film that tried to cover several years of schooling in a single installment. It's just a ton of material. We quickly follow Ender as he works his way through the various levels of the academy without facing much trouble.

Ender Wiggins takes the battle to the Formic home world in Ender's GameWhere characters in other works must often try and try again to overcome obstacles, Ender faces most things once and is promptly promoted, while the two officers proclaim what genius it took for Ender to perform the feats he made look pretty easy. Perhaps it's a political stab at the United States' schooling system. Allegorical schemes aside, at this point it only seems fair to call the film's tone into question. Ender's Game garnered a PG-13 rating but was clearly meant for children. After seeing that the majority of his "challenges" would be zero gravity laser tag, I decided it was best to change the lens I viewed the film through. Still, this was not enough to prepare me for the ending.

While I won't entirely spoil the ending, it's best to say that the reveal makes what seems like another schooling scene completely anticlimactic. The film then continues for another long ten minutes or so in an effort to open the world up for possible sequels. The little character evolution that started earlier in the film is somewhat pursued as the victorious Ender must decide if he finds himself to be a hero or villain. On the surface, the entire emotional arc—is he the mean brother or overly soft sister—was a fine idea, and one rarely pursued when constructing a hero. Unfortunately, it came off heavy-handed, as it was mostly just discussed with words instead of visuals.

At the end of the day, Ender's Game advertised the battle between humanity and aliens, but it only really offered a young man's battle to find himself in a chaotic world. The film is, however, bookended by some sci-fi action that may be more palatable than the stuffed second act. Ultimately I'd say it was a fun film, but certainly not enough to merit attendance over the spree of films slated for the coming holiday season. As a franchise, Ender's Game fails to launch.

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