Tame, Lame Video Game

Ender’s Game has no winner

Glam it up all you want: Ender’s Game is about a kid playing a high-stakes video game. And before Fred Savage-fueled visions of The Wizard go Super-Mario-dancing in your head, you should know this features absolutely no Power Glove love.

Based on a beloved book by awful homophobe and terrible human being Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game is about how bad/good war is, how noble/irrelevant compassion is and how important/meaningless individuality is. If there was a clear message in the book beyond “kids can play video games like whoa,” screenwriter/director Gavin Hood lost it in adaptation. The result is a tepid, vanilla, special-effects bonanza with no stakes that squanders Harrison Ford’s attempt to kind of give a damn for once.

Asa Butterfield is the titular Ender Wiggin, a brilliant boy trained to command military action against aliens from a young age. As is always the case, smart children in fiction are played as emotionally stunted and devoid of true personality, so Butterfield isn’t given much to do when his voice isn’t cracking while belting out commands. Colonel Graff (Ford) is convinced that the insect-like aliens are going to return to earth and treat us like we treat actual insects, so he rushes Ender through the training program in the hopes of turning the tide once and for all. This all leads to a climactic battle that takes place in what is basically the holodeck from “Star Trek’s” Enterprise, the Danger Room from “X-Men” or the dreamatorium from NBC’s “Community.”

More talented actresses Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld are forced to play “Go get ‘em, male hero guy!” roles because Card’s brain is the kind of place where having female genitals fully eliminates independent heroism. Their characters exist solely to help Ender reach his objective. Worse yet is Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis), whose job it is to whine about hurt feelings and fragile emotions to Colonel “My name even looks like gruff” Graff.

In the hands of a more gifted artist than Hood, the adaptation may have focused on modern extrapolations of the book’s themes. For example, the detached, robotic military equipment that kills enemies while its users are safe far, far away certainly mirrors the current hubbub over US drone strikes. Likewise, the stale “coming of age too young in the face of war” theme that has been present since movies first grew to prominence in the wake of World War could have been replaced by an examination of the intellectual and revolutionary power of youth (see The Arab Spring, for example). Instead, Ender just plays with a fancy X-Box, and Hood hopes you’re distracted enough.

Ender’s Game is perfectly serviceable, wholly inoffensive and spectacularly average entertainment. The saddest part is that Ford appeared to have actually woken up for a scene or two, but Hood was seemingly unprepared for that possibility, so nothing much comes of it. Nothing much comes of any of this really, save for Card getting another chance to cling to relevance and advance his agenda of hate. So, maybe this was a bad idea.

Grade = C

posted at 12:25 pm
on Friday, November 01st, 2013

COMMENTS

(We're testing Facebook commenting (you can login using other services, too); please let us know if you have trouble.)


 

« Previous Page


Slipping Mickey

Gather ‘round kids and hear a story from the days of yore, a time when artists drew cartoons with their actual human hands and not every children’s movie had covert sex jokes for ma and pa to...

more »


Marvel Blockbusts a Cap

With fight choreography pickpocketed from Baryshnikov and more leaping and bounding than Pooh’s friend Tigger on cocaine, Captain America (Chris Evans) makes beating the crap out of bad guys look...

more »


That Ship Cray

They gave the guy who made Requiem for a Dream $150 million to make a movie about Noah’s ark. Huh?! In Requiem, writer/director Darren Aronofsky had Jennifer Connelly connect with another woman via...

more »


Quirking on Something Different

To alter a phrase from Twain, who won’t mind because he’s dead, writer/director Wes Anderson repeated history until he figured out how to rhyme. Barring a brief foray into stop-motion animation,...

more »


Speedy and Irritable

The most important thing to know before attempting to endure the lumbering bore that is Need for Speed is this: every single character in the film is unspeakably dumb. Presumably set in a world...

more »







Advanced Search