Movie Review: “Ender’s Game”

Starring
Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
Director
Gavin Hood

Much like the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic book miniseries “Watchmen,” Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi military novel “Ender’s Game” was deemed unfilmable by the author for years. But just as Zack Snyder found a way to bring “Watchmen” to the big screen, so too has Gavin Hood with “Ender’s Game.” Despite having never read the novel myself, it’s easy to see why Hollywood had so much trouble adapting the source material, because although Hood has succeeded in some respects, it feels like a more streamlined version that’s missing a lot of the complexity that made the novel so revered in the first place. It’s like “Harry Potter” meets “Full Metal Jacket,” and while that’s certainly an intriguing mash-up, the movie doesn’t quite live up to the book’s reputation.

Following an attack on Earth by an alien species known as the Formics – in which millions of people were killed before a brave fighter pilot single-handedly defeated the enemy fleet – the planet’s military leaders have begun planning for their return. At the forefront of the defense effort is Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), who runs a program training gifted youngsters with the best tactical minds in the hope that they can lead Earth to victory should the insect-like Formics return again. One of the program’s newest recruits is 12-year-old outsider Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a brilliant strategist whom Graff believes has the potential to save their entire species. Sent to an orbiting space station for a boot camp called Battle School to train with the other top recruits in a series of physical and mental challenges, Ender is pushed to his limits by Graff to prepare him in time for the next attack.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to November

november

Last month may have been pretty uncharacteristic with the quality of films on display, featuring several Best Picture contenders, but if you thought that it would somehow affect the November release slate, think again. Though audiences will sadly have to wait a little longer to see Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” after the director failed to meet the original date, there are still plenty of great movies on tap, including a few award hopefuls, a pair of blockbuster sequels and more.

“ENDER’S GAME”

Who: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld and Ben Kingsley
What: The International Military recruits and trains a brilliant young boy named Ender Wiggin to lead his fellow soldiers against an alien attack.
When: November 1st
Why: Though “Ender’s Game” has been mired in controversy due to author Orson Scott Card’s recent anti-gay marriage rant, the fact of the matter is that his opinions have nothing to do with the actual movie. Of course, that’s not to say that the film still isn’t fighting an uphill battle. Director Gavin Hood has some making up to do after the disappointment of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” but despite some concerns from fans, this big screen adaptation of the beloved sci-fi novel (previously thought to be unfilmable) looks like it could be his ticket to redemption. While it’s surprising that he’d follow up “Wolverine” with another effects-heavy film, it shows that Hood is adamant about proving his critics wrong. And with actors like Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis in supporting roles, he certainly has the right tools to do just that.

“LAST VEGAS”

Who: Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline
What: Three sixty-something friends take a break from their day-to-day lives to throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal.
When: November 1st
Why: A lot of people are already referring to “Last Vegas” as the geriatric version of “The Hangover,” but apparently, Dan Fogelman’s script was floating around Hollywood years before the Todd Phillips comedy became a box office hit. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine that the success of the “Hangover” films didn’t play some part in getting the movie greenlit, and as goofy as the concept sounds (expect plenty of cheap jokes at the expense of its elderly characters), it actually looks pretty fun. The fact that director Jon Turteltaub was able to recruit such accomplished actors like De Niro, Douglas, Freeman and Kline (the latter of whom we haven’t seen much of recently) only helps sell the comedy even more, because if we’re going to watch four old guys make fools of themselves, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better quartet.

“ABOUT TIME”

Who: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy and Lydia Wilson
What: At the age of 21, Tim discovers he can time travel. His decision to make his world a better place by getting a girlfriend turns out not to be as easy as you might think.
When: November 1st
Why: Richard Curtis is responsible for making my favorite romantic comedy of all-time (“Love, Actually”), so to say that I’m excited about his latest (and hopefully not last, if reports are to be believed) directorial effort is a bit of an understatement. For starters, it’s a brilliant approach to the time travel gimmick, eschewing all the usual sci-fi mumbo jumbo in place of a simpler explanation, which allows Curtis to focus on the characters instead of getting wrapped up in the how of Tim’s magical ability. The father/son storyline also appears to be more important than the trailers suggest, and between rising star Domhnall Gleeson and the always dependable Bill Nighy, it’s that relationship (and not the one between Gleeson and Rachel McAdams) that will likely provide the careful balance of laughter and tears that Curtis has perfected so well.

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