50 years ago the world was almost decimated by an alien race known as the Formics. Now, the brightest and most gifted children are trained practically from birth to be expert military leaders in the hopes of one day putting an end to this war. Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) is considered to be the smartest of them all and is viewed by many to be Earth’s final hope.
Ender’s Game follows Ender as he is accepted into the advanced training facility in space known as Battle School where he will learn everything there is to know about military tactics and the Formic race alongside other children who are as gifted as him. Ender is not that big of a kid so he is often teased and ridiculed by the other cadets, despite his vastly superior intelligence. Remember, these are still kids we’re talking about. In the book the film’s based on, they aren’t even 10-years-old yet. One of the major themes of Ender’s Game revolves around the fact that these are just children who have been thrown into this adult world.
The leaders, namely Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), are solely focused on exterminating the Formics and don’t care about anything else besides training the best children into hardened tactical thinkers whose only goal is ending the war. For Graff, the end justifies the means. The way he sees it, there won’t be any world to fix should the Formics win so who cares about the losses. He pushes these kids to the brink of sanity, all for this so-called great cause.
The first three quarters of the film deal with Ender adjusting to the ranks of Battle School and dealing with the pressure of being the best. Battle School features some of the most visually spectacular scenes of the film, particularly the zero gravity battle room where the war games are held. Here we see Ender move up in the ranks of the school, eventually to the point where he is in command of his own team. Asa Butterfield is the perfect Ender. He doesn’t seem like anything special just by looking at him, but he’s the kind of person who could easily defeat someone in a one-on-one battle by outwitting and outmaneuvering them. Right away he excels at the war games, and personally I would have liked to see more of them, given how detailed the tactics and the games were in the novels.
As Ender progresses forward, things become more real with Formic battle simulations eventually replacing the war games he fought earlier. Ender’s Game toes the line between what’s real and what’s a game. War is most often experienced from a distance so there is always less of an attachment to it. The film does an excellent job at addressing this throughout and those that read the book will be pleased to know that the basic structure of events remains the same. There’s a sense of morality between Ender and Colonel Graff and both Butterfield and Ford give excellent performances that raise questions.
Ender’s Game has everything you’d want in a great sci-fi film. It has plenty of action with amazing visuals wrapped around a fantastic story in a futuristic setting, and great performances by Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford will have you enthralled from beginning to end.