The adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game possibly meant that a new Science Fiction franchise could once again play a strong factor in the cinema’s near future. However, the film’s meagre box office returns ($110,000,000) resulted in any chances of a sequel being produced as slim. There are a number of reasons why Ender’s Game was a financial failure, the first and main reason was perhaps the competition (Hunger Games and Thor), another reason could be the proposed boycott of the film due to the author’s homophobic viewpoint. After claiming that gay people should not be treated like ordinary citizens it won’t surprise me if Scott thought the ‘gay disease’ was something that could be caught if a gay person happened to sneeze on you or if any gay people engaged in imitate contact with one another whilst sitting in a confined area with a straight person.
Anywho moving on, Ender’s Game stars Asa Butterfield as Ender Wiggin, a gifted third child who is believed by those in the know to be the one that will defeat the supposedly evil insect like Formic race. Several decades previously the alien race known as the Formics attacked Earth looking to establish a colony, they were only thwarted by the bravery of Mazer Rackham. Seventy years on Ender graduates and earns a place in Battle School where he will be trained to fight the Formics.
The main issue I have with the film is found in a five second passage of dialogue which contains a line of inter-galactic (see what I did there?) stupidity.
Ender Wiggin: Sir, you made them hate me
Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford): I told them you were the best, we need a Julius Caesar, a Napoleon.
Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis): We were hoping that would be you.
Ender Wiggin: Caesar was assassinated by the people he trusted.
Major Gwen Anderson: And Napoleon lost in the end.
Colonel Graff: Not before he conquered the known world... dismissed!
Hyrum Graff says that the Earth is need of a Julius Cesar or Napoleon, and we ‘learn’ that Napoleon lost only after he had conquered the known world. This is true only if you don’t include Britain, Russia and Sweden and North America and South America Asia and Africa and pretty much the rest of the World except for France, Belgium, Holland and parts of Italy and military presence in Germany and Spain. Anyway, quite clearly in Gavin Hood's (the quote was different in Card's book) dimension Napoleon won the battle of Waterloo and outfoxed Wellington.
It seems unfair that I should dislike a film because of five seconds of inane stupidity that has relatively little impact on the film, but the issue I mentioned in the paragraph above is just part of a much larger and more problematic issue. The issue in question is the dialogue which is in desperate need of a tidy up. The screenplay, written by Gavin Hood (who also served as Director), is the film’s weakest link, it’s clumsy and clunky and rather painful to listen to.
Further issues arise in the film’s pacing, much like The Hunger Games (I am aware the novel of Ender’s Game was released in the 80s), much of the film’s opening act is based on Ender’s training in a various schools. It makes for a slow opening act in which Ender struggles to connect with his fellow members in the various bootcamps, yet we all know that he will eventually win them over and lead them into battle so the viewer is left wishing the film would quicken up.
The boring build up to the film’s conclusion wouldn’t be so problematic if the film was injected with anything that could inspire the audience’s attention but we are left with a humourless, character free and unengaging opening hour with the exception of the odd scene or two (the battle scenes for instance). However, things do eventually pick up as the film’s marches towards its conclusion as the film’s themes of war and morality incorporated with themes of fascism make for powerful and emotional conclusion.
Asa Butterfield’s performance in the central role is fine, but he never gives a performance powerful enough to be highly engaging, Harrison Ford grumbles his way to a paycheck, and Ben Kingsley provides effective support. However, questions are posed yet unanswered, why so much pressure to graduate, why is the third child often gifted and why do you have to ask permission for a third child? I’m guessing because of population levels but the supposed high population levels are never shown and I would imagine the issue of high population levels has been solved by the invading alien race 70 years previously.
The slow pacing a poor dialogue the film’s biggest issues, Ender’s Game isn’t a great start for a potential franchise but there seems to be no chance to improve as the potential for a new Science Fiction series has all but evaporated.