Saturday, November 2, 2013

Movie Review: Ender's Game

We had a good stretch there, with Prisoner, Rush, and Captain Phillips, but I'm afraid the ride is over. Ender's Game is not good. The book is fantastic, and I would highly recommend it (buy a used copy, Orson Scott Card doesn't deserve your money), but the movie isn't just a poor adaptation; it sucks.

Ender is a genius child who is selected to attend military school with the hope of him developing into the next Caesar, humanity's greatest commander and best hope against the Formics (you'll know them as 'buggers' in the books), an alien race that was previously defeated in an assault on earth, and that could return at any time. Presumably.

Story: 2/5 - I can't support this adaptation based on the pacing. Having to condense a novel is not an excuse; if it can't be done, don't do the movie. Alternatively, Peter Jackson seems to be doing just fine. We absolutely fly through the book, hitting a few highlights, and hey, Ender is at the climax of the film. Also, don't expect to find out why we call him Ender or the significance of the nickname, he's just Andrew Ender Wiggin. Worse, a number of the scenes that were adapted from the novel were turned on their head and stripped of significance. In one fight scene, where Ender reveals part of his character by being particularly violent in the novel, in the movie the opponent just kind of falls and dies, so Ender's emotional turmoil is kind of meaningless.

Writing: 1/5 - You can't just take portions of the dialogue from the book, there have to be changes; especially because the book is so sparse on dialogue. Nothing is original or creative, there are no jokes, and everything is so ham-handed. Don't have each character tell me what they're feeling.

Acting: 3/5 - I really wanted to give this a 1/5. Asa Butterfield (Ender) is hot and cold, and Harrison Ford (mentor Colonel Graff (by the way, the relationship between Ender and Graff is totally ignored)) is bordering on senility. Does he need the money this badly? Still, both Butterfield and Ford showed their chops at some points in the movie, and I look forward to Butterfield's career, and hope that Ford can get one more decent role. Hailee Standield (True Grit) is only a minor character, but we already know how good she is.

Aesthetics: 2/5 - There are a few neat shots, but everything is brief, with insufficient setup. These scenes are sprawling and confusing, and the way they are shot makes them impossibly devoid of connection or suspense.

The highlight of the movie, by the way, is a confrontation between Graff and Ender in which you can clearly see a large crumb or smudge of something on Harrison Ford's lip. I can't believe a film gets made with this little attention.

Final Score: 40%

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