Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ender's Game Has Muddeled Beginning

With lots of effects, little substance and a few shinning moments, Ender's Game offers a lot for the audience to ponder.


ARTH VADER (AV): Well, old friend, Hollywood's done it again. From the ranks of fan favoritism, Hollywood snatches mediocrity from the jaws of potential awesomeness. Based on the beloved military sci-fi novel series of the same name by Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game attempts to make social commentary through Earth's repelling of an alien invasion from the mysterious bug-like 'Formics.' By training young cadets to become nearly clairvoyant strategists, Earth's defense forces hope to tap into a latent hidden power in humans to win the day. As a subtext for the misalignment for military, humane and scientific imperatives, Ender's Game is a complicated context for survival and the human condition the movie attempts to give us a concise overview. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): The film seems to be a blend of “Ender’s Game” and “Ender’s Shadow,” although heavier on the latter. Continuity will certainly suffer a bit in a situation like this, but the result of being able to tell a story that works for the silver screen and entertains may well be worth it. 


AV: What if they gave a movie and no big name actors came? Sure this movie has a super-studded cast of acting/sci-fi all-stars like Harrison (Han-Shot-First) Ford, Sir Ben (Don't call me the real Mandarin) Kingsley and the lovely and talented Viola (State-of-Play) Davis. These folks drop some credibility up in Ender's Game but I don't know if the movie is better or worse for it. I'm slowly migrating to the belief that some star power actually hurts a movie. Asa Butterfield's Ender is curious. The portrayal at times is passionate, at others overacted. While it was great to see Harry Ford return to our beloved sci-fi genre, he edged more toward grumpy old guy and less seasoned space-war vet. Director Gavin Wood paced the movie competently but leaves gaps in the storytelling big enough to drive a space cruiser through. Pontificator? 

TP: The delivery of Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley was exactly as expected. They are both excellent actors that immersed themselves in their roles. The unexpected treats were Asa Butterfield and the entire cast of child actors. It was simply superb how they carried the film and never once made it feel cheesy or scripted. The performances of the cast were absolutely enthralling and the direction of the film kept it at a steady and intense pace which added to the immersion experience. As for those “gaps” Vader, I’ll get to that later.


AV: Ponty, I am about ready to cry "Uncle" with the overdone visual effects of today's Hollywood. While everything looks stunning in this movie, the plastic and fiberglass-looking environments look woefully uninviting. We would be better served to spend more of the movie time in the half-human and half-fornic base or the Fornic hive near the end of the film. Most of the time was spent on the zero gravity training sessions and that was just all-out boring to me (especially given that Gravity came out just last month). The visual effects were quite good but just overdone for me. 

TP: This film could have gone very wrong at this point, but absolutely didn’t. The special effects were fantastic, but it was the small areas that brought it home for me. Certainly the giant space battle scenes were epic, filling the screen with more action than the eye could follow, but for me, it was the space arena training that took my imagination. Coming off of “Gravity,” I’m still reeling from the idea of floating in space, and the zero gravity environment presented (easily done with wire work) was splendidly done both in effects and to further the story in showcasing the superior tactical mind of Ender Wiggins.  


AV: Science Fiction is starting to find a different voice. With beginnings in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and through the Earth-as-an-Alien target story arcs of today, Sci-Fi hasn't proven to be a particularly kind genre to mankind. But things are changing. Such is the case with Ender's Game. The age-old tale of the sacrifice of a select few for the greater good–and survival of us all–is the story of Ender Wiggin's place in our fictional future. Does the survival of man justify the genocide of an other-worldly species... even if they did throw the first punch? Does survival dictate that we sacrifice the innocence and lives of a few for the good of all over a perceived threat? Do the people we chose to fight our wars deserve full disclosure of the context and consequences of their actions? There is even a subtext of survival of the fittest as well. The story broker's better conversation than the movie suggests–or delivers.

TP: There was much to see in this film. The portrayal of Ender as a strategic genius by the various situations he was manipulated into, was riveting. As a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Batman, “figuring it out” really appeals to me. This helped me cope with the planet-sized plot holes at the end of the film. The twist ending that the “games” weren’t really games was excellent. The shock and awe this realization had on Ender, after he ended the war with a brilliant, but genocidal strategy, was heavy. His breakdown coincided with the breakdown of all sense for the film after that. The thought that this minor, in that mental state, would be left alone to roam and wander freely didn’t make sense.  That he would find a live Formic and queen embryo just a short walk from the military base, didn’t make sense. Bringing the embryo back to the base undetected… yup, no sense. Promoted and left on his own wandering through space with said embryo, nope… not a shred of sense to that either. A rushed ending if ever there was one.

AV: The movie implies that Ender's journey is not over. Author Orson Scott Card wrote a series of adventures and trials further chronicling Ender's travels. Perhaps later installments deserve a deeper, more authentic view of the universe of conflict and morality this story starts us on. I would be interested but the experience of the next movie cannot rival the first. There is an opportunity here to tell a much better story than that of the 'young gifted hero who saves us all'—but Hollywood will have to take a chance on a script that doesn't follow the 'good guy always wins' convention. Ponty, what did you think? 

TP: Box office sales are a great determining factor when contemplating a sequel Vader, but for this film, more goes into the thought, in my opinion. Let’s suppose it does well enough to warrant a sequel (which is doesn’t look to be doing), there is the problem of having nowhere to go with the story that I would want to follow. Wandering through space with a Formic queen embryo can have many possibilities, but everything that made this film enjoyable for me has already been wrapped up. I’ll be happy with a release on Blu-ray that adds all the deleted scenes back into the film so it all makes sense in the end.


ARTH VADER rates Ender's Game: This movie has its moments. There are times I have empathy and even respect for the hero and there are other times that, as a viewer, I could care less about what happens next. Though slow and at times witless, the story and statements are indeed weightier than the film itself. Certainly worth a watch, but this movie's lack of unique identity and story gaps are filled in with long sessions of so-what space training that leaves this fan hopeful that the next installment of the Ender's Game saga fares better than the six (6) busted blocks of the first film. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Ender’s Game: This film wasn’t a terrible film, in fact it was downright excellent with great effects, superb acting, intriguing story and a pace that kept me locked in. I found myself surprised at how enjoyable the film was given the fact it was mainly driven by child actors, with some excellent Harrison Ford sprinkled in. That said, I think the ending was rushed and dropped the ball, a tactical error, which strategically busted only seven (7) blocks… when it could have done much better. 

Ender's Game: 6.5 / 10 Busted Blocks 
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