Customer Reviews: Ender's Game [DVD + Digital]
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on November 1, 2013
I'm a big reader of science fiction, and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series is probably my favorite. The only things that come close are Hyperion by Dan Simmons and Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. I've read Ender's Game more than 10 times, including two or three occasions on which I finished it in a single sitting. One of my college papers is based on the novel and is published on Card's website.

Yes, I'm a fan.

So, as you can imagine, I have been looking forward to an Ender's Game movie long before I ever thought it might happen. For me, it had the potential to be the best science fiction movie ever made, if done well. After assembling a strong cast, my expectations could not have been higher as I sat down to watch the IMAX version today.

The basic premise is that an alien race, known as the Formics or Buggers, invaded Earth fifty years ago. The invading fleet was defeated, but another attack is expected. In order to be ready to face a species that learns from its mistakes, the International Fleet has come up with a strategy: A program was established to observe the behavior of young children, hoping that the best young geniuses of the time would be able to become the top military strategists by the time they were needed. Ender Wiggin was chosen as one of the trainees.

The movie deviates considerably from the book, but it's necessary. I am not here to tell you why the book is better, I'm here to tell you whether Ender's Game works as a movie. However, I must explain some of the key differences. In the book, Ender begins his training at the age of six, while all of the trainees in the movie appear to be 15 or older. I understand that it would be impossible to find dozens of 6-year-old actors capable of carrying this story. Also, the sequence of events is different. Bean, who is a key character, meets Ender immediately, rather than a few years into his training. Ender's training is supposed to take around eight years, but it seems to happen in months.

The biggest weakness of the movie is the way the battle training is condensed. Again, I realize that few people would want to watch four hours of training, but some of the suspense is missing because so little time is devoted to key events. Some events in the book seem unfair to Ender, but without the background information, anyone who hasn't read the book will miss the significance. Whenever I read Ender's Game, I become Ender Wiggin and experience the satisfaction of his achievements. I'm glad to say that I experienced similar feelings during the movie.

IMDB claims that the movie is an action movie, but that's not the case. Don't go into this expecting battle sequences or laser fights. They do exist, but not in the form you might expect. I am actually impressed that Hollywood didn't ruin the movie by trying to include too much action.

Ender's Game is essentially about leadership, and why individuals choose to follow certain people. Everyone in the school is a genius, but Ender is a good leader because he gains the trust, loyalty, and even love of his followers. The book is full of tactics, and we see Ender and his army discover and develop skills over the course of several years. The armies are comprised of 40 soldiers who are typically split into four Toons of 10 soldiers during battle. I doubt a casual viewer will come away from this movie even knowing what a Toon is. We certainly aren't shown how Ender's Dragon Army uses tactics that are completely new. On the plus side, the ending could not have been better, and I was excited to see an important scene present and handled well.

So, does this movie work at all?

As someone who knows all of the background to Ender's story, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it come alive on the big screen. The acting was good and the special effects spectacular, although my Kiwi friend reliably informs me that Ben Kingsley butchered the accent. Most of the key events in the book are touched upon, and a fan of the series will automatically catch the references and fill in the blanks. A complete newcomer to the story will probably have a good time, but come away wondering why Ender's Game is often regarded as the best science fiction book ever written.

I hope that the movie will be successful enough to spawn a sequel. Speaker for the Dead is a much deeper story, and shows what happens to Ender after the war. However, with some people boycotting the movie due to their dislike of Card's politics, I'm not sure whether a sequel will be possible.

I'll be adding Ender's Game to my collection as soon as it is released on Blu-ray, but it would be wrong of me to automatically give it 5/5 just because I love the books. That said, it's a good attempt to make a coherent story out of very difficult material. It's hard to show people thinking. If you do like the movie and haven't read the book, I urge you to do so. I imagine it would considerably enhance any future viewings.

By the way, the trailer gives away almost everything.
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VINE VOICEon November 9, 2013
I've seen a lot of complaints that this movie didn't cover every scene, plot twist, character development, etc. in the book. It seems like many reviewers still don't understand just how different novels and movies are as creative media. For movies, time is precious - most movies have only around 2 hours to tell their story - whereas books generally don't face a hard limit on the page count. Moreover, movie are expensive to make whereas books are cheap (basically the author's living expenses and and market campaign).

Looking at Ender's Game as a movie and not just as an adaptation of the book, it actually holds up very well. Asa Butterfield manages to subtly portray both a ruthless and compassionate side to Ender. The rest of the actors generally do a good job bringing their characters to life, which is no small accomplishment give that most of them are kids. Even though the kids are older than their counterparts in the book, they still look, feel, and act like kids. Ender's voice even cracks a bit, like a kid going through puberty. While Ender and Petra do have quite a few scenes together, I was very pleased to see that Hollywood didn't try to insert romance into their relationship.

Gavin Hood, the director, obviously realized that he wasn't filming the book and the script makes some significant but smart changes. The arc of Ender's siblings - Peter and Valentine - is drastically curtailed (even in the book, it was only peripheral to the main plot). More importantly, Ender's character arc isn't quite as exhaustive or exhausted as in the book. I appreciate that Hood implicitly acknowledges that movie Ender hasn't been at Battle School nearly as long as book Ender and the movie doesn't try to cheat and shortcut that experience. Ender's arc feels appropriate for what we see in the movie and going further probably wouldn't have been possible in 2 hours.

Without spoiling anything, I was also impressed that they spent at least some time on the denouement. Not since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King have I felt so glad that a movie took time to give its characters at least some room to experience the fallout of events. Again, it's not the book, but the the essentials of the store are there.

That said, I kept finding myself frustrated that the movie wasn't longer than 2 hours. There were parts that felt rushed or condensed. The beginning in particular has an odd way of introducing Ender's universe to audiences, most of who are not familiar with the book. The first 10-15 minutes are probably more confusing as the movie really throws you into the story pretty quickly. I thought overall the movie was better paced as it progressed, but even later scenes could have used more time to simmer. If anything, I thought the movie included too much from the book and tried to cover too much ground at the risk of not developing the main plot sufficiently. Some important characters, such as Mazer Rackham, just don't leave much of an impression because we don't spend enough time with them.

I almost got the sense that Gavin Hood was forced by the studio to do some last minute editing to shorten the film. I would have thought that Good could have convinced the studio to allow a longer movie given the popularity of the novel, but that extra half hour probably would mean at least one less showing per day in most cinemas. I can only hope we'll see an extended version on DVD.

Overall, this is a well done, if condensed, version of the Ender's Game novel. It's probably much more faithful to the book than most movie adaptations of novels (certainly more so than say the Hobbit). If you go into the movie with an appreciation for the realities of filmmaking, I suspect most fans of the book will enjoy seeing their favorite characters come to life. Rating: 4.5 stars.
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VINE VOICEon November 5, 2013
“Ender's Game”, a 1985 novel from Orson Scott Card, is the subject of a new film and director Gavin Hood (X:Men Origins: Wolverine). It is a science-fiction action film with an uncharacteristic premise. It is uncharacteristic in the sense that as a science-fiction action film, it is less eventful and more thoughtful. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is an extremely gifted kid with the mentality for success in battle. He is closely watched by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and quickly moved up the ranks of a futuristic military academy.

An alien species called the 'formics' or in the book, 'the buggers', are threatening earth's existence and desperate moves are needed to be made. “Ender's Game” does have elements that are similar to two films in my opinion, but seeing as though the book came out in 1985, those films appear to be inspired by the book. Those movies are “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and “Starship Troopers” (1997). The film focuses on the training of military recruits preparing for war against bugs and it makes a broad statement about war and its effect on the human condition.

This is easily the best thing that Harrison Ford has done in years and his performance is only bolstered by the performance of sort of unknown Asa Butterfield. Butterfield encompasses everything needed to portray a complex and challenging role. Maybe his previous performance in a rare gem like “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” prepared him for such an emotional and deep character. Much is placed upon the shoulders of the teenager Ender Wiggin and Butterfield was flawless at bringing you into an inner-turmoil that many times can only be described in a book.

I wondered why “Ender's Game” was not a summer blockbuster release because the effects are well done and the movie looked like a blockbuster type thing, but now that I've viewed it, I understand its release completely. This isn't a blockbuster release type film. This is a thoughtful film, more suitable for Oscar season and a more thoughtful movie-goer. The movie challenges you to question things and rethink things, just as its lead character does, separating him from others.

The ending of the film seem to be rushed and thrown together; most undoubtedly to prepare this film for a possible franchise of films, but that would be the only thing that I disliked about it. Not that the ending was bad, but in a film that was already near 2-hours, what happened in its final minutes, to be done properly would have required at least another 20 or 30 minutes that the creator decided to forgo. Otherwise, “Ender's Game” is loaded with solid performances and intelligence.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 17, 2014
I'm not sure what I was expecting from this. I suppose I was hoping for Lord of the Rings: a sense of scale, emotional resonance, and characters so compellingly-realized that they replace the ones you mentally create when you read the book.

Well, that's not this movie. It feels like a bullet point summary. There's no time to flesh anything out, so things just happen, point by point, with little glue or depth. Relationships and character motivations are so condensed that the emotional impact of many events just leeches away. Worth watching? Sure. It's not a bad spectacle and the plot is coherent enough. But comparisons to the source only highlight what it could have been.

The outline hasn't changed. Ender's Game is set well into the future after an attack on Earth by an alien race. The military sends genius children (teenagers onscreen) with leadership potential to a 'battle school' in space to prove themselves against their peers. Some will eventually command a counterstrike. Ender is the most gifted and intelligent of the children, a 'chosen one' by adults under severe time pressure. How he adapts and how the others come to follow him comprise the majority of the book. The movie opts to excise much of this progression and a number of secondary characters. An open-ended epilogue leaves room for sequels.

Ender himself is probably the biggest loss in the translation. He's intended as a tragic character. The crux of the book is that a person with the empathy to understand how to destroy this civilization would be too empathetic to do it, if he knew that he was. But he understands on some level, and as the pressure builds on him, so it does on the reader.

That's amplified by the intense solitude Card imposes. In this movie, Ender is just another kid: fast friends with the others after minor goading. Not so in the book: he's small in stature and has only a moment to befriend a bunkmate before he's accelerated away. The older children feel and prey on his sensitivity until his achievements transform him into an 'other,' a unicorn set apart by ability. And his superiors are never friendly. They think he has to believe that he's the only one capable of winning, that no one will ever help him, or he won't see it through to the end. The fate of the world is literally in his hands and the weight of it nearly kills him.

We don't get that sense of bleakness because it wasn't written into the script except at the final reveal (and as a result, Ender's response comes across as a tantrum rather than a moment of existential despair). It's a sort of generic teen-savior screenplay. That causes other problems. The challenge of adapting Ender's Game was always suspension of disbelief: how do you write child parts to make them seem deserving of adult responsibility? There's no disconnect on the written page because you're in Ender's head. You can see just how calculating and deductive he is. But very little of that is recreated. He acts like a normal, slightly precocious teenager, among other normal teenagers. In consequence, Harrison Ford's intense belief in Ender, prophetic in writing, seems a bit delusional here. If you can't accept the premise of child generals, it's difficult to appreciate the rest.

What's left? To start, a capable lead. Asa Butterfield meshes well with the role, except insofar as the oddity of seeing his 5'1 adversary bully someone nine inches taller and twenty pounds heavier. He's actually better than Ford, who alternates between one-note gruff and hero worship. Viola Davis is underused. All the secondary characters could have been anyone. None except Petra have any meat to their roles. Ben Kingsley's Mazer Rackham remains a mysterious specter, perhaps the most interesting individual in the movie. One wonders if this couldn't have been a trilogy with the first third focusing on his exploits.

And we've got some action with two major set pieces: a training 'battle room' much larger than what I'd envisioned, and an alien planet. Ender's initial experiences with the battle room in zero-G were the most engaging parts for me. It's one of the few sections where the movie slows to take a breath. As he experiences this new thing, so do you. That's pretty cool. By counterpoint, his later adventures commanding his proteges in a simulator were exciting enough, but terribly rushed and anticlimactic. The sense of scale is actually less than in the training scenes.

On balance, Ender's Game is a decent film, but memorable to me more for the pain of what might have been rather than as a sympathetic reaction to the main character. I'd wait until it hits the discount racks. If you're viewing it with fresh eyes, you may have a better experience.
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I am reviewing the film "Ender's Game" based on the film itself (as a film overall) and not in comparison to the incredibly renowned original Orson Scott Card book of the same name. With that said, Director and adaptor of the screenplay Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Rendition) did a really artistic and thought evoking job of telling the story of a gifted young boy who is persecuted because of his size, intelligence and ability to win at everything he tries.

In this film there is a back-story of aliens, once again, after having attacked Earth in the past and for whatever reason left our planet in a wake of destruction and chaos. Years later the military expects their immanent return and as a result, are training qualified young people to do battle in a highly sophisticated and technological manner.

With a really talented and experienced cast, like Harrison Ford (Mosquito Coast, Witness) as Colonel Graff, who is the man who first sees in one boy, a person who may stand above the crowd both intellectually and strategically for the cause. Graff is a trainer of young people in the art of war, combat and strategy. Harrison gives a real gritty hard-nosed performance that almost at times makes you dislike his combative and Napoleon-like way of commanding his trainees.

Stepping up to the plate rather impressively is Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy In The Stripped Pajamas) playing Ender Wiggin, who has this impressive intensity in his eyes and an incredible conviction to his character with his performance. Asa is sharp and alert to watch and does the overcoming of his peers very well. It's unfortunate his end mission isn't what he thought it was and as a result makes good on something that was completely out of his hands.

Sir Ben Kingsley (Schindler's List, Hugo) plays Mazer Rackham, the legendary fighter of all who actually defeated the aliens, the only one to defeat the aliens in an all-out attack. Coupled with his strangely bizarre tattoo make-up, Ben give a sharp, `Master Yoda'-like performance who has a mission of only training the best of the best. Like Ender.

Special note must go to Viola Davis for playing the cunning and sharp Major Gwen Anderson who keeps trying to keep Harrison from over zealously over-training these young people into their own deaths. Viola's chemistry and opposite thinking against Harrison makes for some nice conflict scenes together.

The film has some wonderful visual effects and the sequences in the ant-gravity training sphere above Earth are stunning to watch. The aliens are also a twist on the insect looking type that are actually not as they appear to be perceived by humans.

The film for me left a really good message in my head about how young people, when they see this film, can realize that peer pressure, your extraordinary or ordinary gifts are never something to be ashamed of. This film is a positive message about young people or the underdogs who win on their wits, intelligence and cunning. "Ender's Game", besides being a Sci-Fi visual delight to look at, at the heart of it, tells a real story of courage and hope. Again, the book is far more intense and detailed, but this as a separate film holds up with a good story and characters. A really good film on many levels, with a positive outlook on humanity and how prejudice is not always found on our planet.
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on November 2, 2013
My friends and I have long wondered when Ender's Game would arrive on the silver screen. In the stream of young adult fiction being adapted for the silver screen I always figured it was only a matter of time before Orson Scott Card's 1985 classic 'Ender's Game' received the Hollywood treatment. While I don't think Gavin Hood's 2013 adaptation is going to win over many converts, nor do I think it will particularly anger fans. For what it is I believe 2013's Ender's Game does the best it can within the confines of a 100 minute running time.

I'd like to say right of the bat that it's been a few years since I read 'Ender's Game', but from what I remember the movie does a decent enough job summarizing the events of the novel. There are some major omissions to be sure, but there isn't any alterations that made me feel the source material had been betrayed in any way. Problems within the film arise from omissions, not flagrant disregard for the source.

The casting feels spot on. Asa Butterfield is a great Ender Wiggins and is a spot on representation of the kind of kid I imagined reading the book. Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff more or less steals the show, reminding us of what a magnetic screen presence he's always been (although he's more or less just playing Harrison Ford) and Viola Davis as Major Anderson does work excellently well as his counterpart. Ben Kingsley does a serviceable job, but has such little screen time that he doesn't really have a chance to establish his character. Ender's siblings Valentine (Abigail Breslin) and Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) have such little presence that they might as well not exist (despite their significant roles in the book). I can understand why these characters had their roles cut down so immensely for the sake of adaptation, but the film still has them referenced constantly, so their lack of development doesn't help you feel much for Ender's internal conflicts relating to his family.

The main problem with Ender's Game is that it has so much story to tell in such a short span of time. Certain plotlines are sped through, some are omitted entirely, and it just feels incredibly condensed. If you haven't read the book I don't think you'll have time to develop much empathy for these characters, or get a grip of what's going on. Having read the book I was able to appreciate these scenes, but even then it felt lacking; like I was watching pieces of an unfinished whole.

Do I think Ender's Game is a great or bad movie? Neither. It's an okay movie. As a movie it doesn't really stand up on its own merits, so that limits its appeal to new audiences, and a movie should work on its own separate from its source. Then if you've read the book like I have you may feel disappointed by how rushed some of the events and messages are handed to you. This doesn't make it a bad movie, because some scenes do work, but it just never reaches its full potential.

If you've read the book the movie is worth seeing once or renting on home video. If you haven't read the book I'd suggest going into it first because the movie isn't anywhere near as engaging.
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on November 25, 2013
"In the moment when I truly understand my enemy. Understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him." After an attack on Earth by an alien race the International Military Academy will do anything it take to keep it from happening again. Colonel Graff (Ford) is in charge of training and finding the future leaders. When he watches a young soldier named Ender Wiggin (Butterfield) he thinks he has found the future. I will do this review in two parts. First of all this is a fun and exciting movie that is geared toward teens but adults will like it as well. The effects are great and the violence isn't anything for parents to be worried about at all. For then entertainment factor alone I recommend this for all families. The second part is about a deeper meaning. I could be reading way too much into this and I don't mean to get political but the movie is kind of a metaphor for the Iraq war. I don't want to give anything away but if you go into it with that mindset you will see what I mean. I know the book it is based off of is older then the war but when you watch it you will see what I mean. Anyway what I'm trying to say is that this is a good family movie that I recommend. Overall, exciting and entertaining and me and my son both liked it. I give it a B+.
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on April 18, 2015
Harrison Ford in a sci-fi movie. I was expecting action and bold story telling. A young boy, the hope for the future. Earth was attacked, but it was able to fight back and destroy the invaders. Ever since Earth has been preparing for the next wave. Children are being trained to fight. Ender is the perfect balance of strategy, violence and leadership. Ender's Game shows Ender from cadet school to battle. While the movie looks bold and is filled with fighting. The story feels lacking. I felt like I was watching a series of highlights. I never felt connected with Ender's character. As far as Harrison Ford's character I disliked him and wanted to stomp his face, which is kudos for Mr. Ford, as none of the other actors made me feel even a fraction of that, including Ben Kingsley.

Picture and sound quality were excellent. However, the extras were minimal and not nearly as extensive as I would expect a sci-fi "nerdy" film to have, especially one based on a classic novel, with a built in audience.

I haven't read the book so I can't offer comparisons, but I felt as if I was missing so much of the story that I am planning to read it.

If you like big battle scenes and visual affects this is a nice evening. If you are looking for a great story, give this a pass.
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on December 11, 2015
Good action,CGI,story,worth viewing.

Many truths about how evil man can be, winning wars at any cost.

Killing out of fear,jealously, insecurity, like native Americans were, Jews,slavery,Jesus. How man never learns from their mistakes.
Ender questioned all of this, so he was lied to and manipulated to carry out the ultimate genocide.

I truly believe and history has shown,if man met other life in space,this as usual war and death would be ultimate outcome. Man fears anything they don't understand or can't control.

I love movies that make you think, if you pay attention you see events in earths history that are similar avatar/Africa enders game/Jews Hitler or America/Natives
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on October 10, 2014
This was an acceptable version of the book. My expectation were met.

I am, unfortunately, one of those people that is almost always disappointed by the film version of my favorite books. This film was a dramatically condensed version of the text, but it did well to capture the horror of the book.

A few notes:
- The visuals were stunning and I think they did well to capture the feeling of the universe.
- I wanted to see more of the "tactics" that they used to dominate as Dragon Army and more Battle Room action in general.
- They omitted the Peter/Valentine sub-plot entirely.
- Spoilers: there was also way too much allusion to the final exam being more than a simulation.
- They also used "drones" instead of humans in the fighters. It tempered the revelation of the horrific choices that Ender had to make.
- I quite enjoyed the sound track and will likely purchase that as well.

Overall, I would consider this a movie that is worth seeing once. It might not hold a place of honor on my shelf, but it was enjoyable.
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