Ender's Game is a disappointment. Fans looking for this incredible, dramatic and even deep romp in space get great effects but little else. Already fans of Orson Scott Card's popular novel are dashing off expletive-filled emails and comments to my Atomictown blog accusing me of having no soul or some such malady.
But I stand by my statement. This is a shallow, half-hearted attempt to capitalize on the success of a popular novel.
Ender's Game finds Earth recovering from an alien invasion that killed tens of millions of people. The world's youth -- with speed and skills adults don't possess -- have been recruited to do battle with the ant-like species who are preparing for a second invasion. Ender is the best of the best and on the fast-track to lead Earth forces in the battle for our very survival.
Having never read the book, I'm assuming it does a better job of dealing with what seem to be profound themes and a shocking twist-ending, and with Ender's struggle with authority and jealous colleagues. Director/writer Gavin Hood doesn't quite get there. He tells Ender's story in chunks, and all themes stay strictly on the surface. Dramatic and sometimes dazzling effects are substituted for decent dialogue.
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The big plus is the acting. Asa Butterfield does Ender. He isn't a great actor but is able to sell Ender's equally measured vulnerability and toughness. Harrison Ford plays Colonel Graff, the boy's mentor and tormentor. Other old pros in the cast are a terrific Viola Davis and the always superb Ben Kingsley. Both are wasted as most of the drama is shared between Butterfield and Ford.
Abigail Breslin has a small role as Ender's sister and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) is Ender's best friend.
If a movie ever needed to be done in 3D, it's Ender's Game. With not a whole lot to offer in plot and the script, the producers put a lot of dough into eye-popping special effects. And trust me on this one, they are stunning and could have been even more so with an extra dimension.
Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Harrision Ford, Asa Butterfield, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Haliee Steinfeld, Moises Arias
Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.