If you have never heard of this film or after being thrilled by the trailer, forgot it was ever made don’t beat yourself up. Promotion and marketing for the flick seemed to fizzle out prematurely. Perhaps due to pressure from gay rights lobbyists after they discovered a film version of Orson Scott Card’s 1980s sci-fi novel was being released. Card is a conservative Mormon who has spoken out against gay marriage and homosexuality. As protest against Scott mounted maybe the studio wanted to distance itself from the film, making matters worse was its average box office performance and plenty of lukewarm reviews.
‘Ender’s Game’ refers to Ender Wiggan (Asa Butterfied) a youngster recruited by the military to become commander of a child army. In the future, earth is attacked by aliens, humanity defeats them but in order to avert future attacks the military plans an offensive that utilizes twelve to fifteen year olds (in the book they are trained from six years old). The rationale being, when playing video games youngsters exhibit great multi tasking skills and are ingenious at planning and executing strategies. These skills are perfect for the fighting methods used in warfare a century from now. Ender is brilliant at strategizing and his ability excites Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) who believes that Ender is the perfect candidate to lead an attack in a ‘war to end all future wars’.
As Ender’s training continues he becomes more and more uncomfortable with his role as a trained killer. Correlated to this personal crisis, the narrative explores the weighty issues of innocence, violence, empathy and the just war principle. Director Gavin Hood manages to make us think but his script is devoid of the darker elements in the book. The cadets around Wiggin never come across as cold child soldiers and Wiggin while well played by Butterfield is too nice. The character could have been empathic while still having more of a killer instinct. Notwithstanding, ‘Ender’s Game’ at least tries to be a smart sci-fi film even if it lacks the depth its source material demands.