The Enders Game film is a dashing rush through the wild adventures of a boy who goes to space to train to be a soldier to fight a war compressed into a two-hour sequence of clips that equate to the feeling of having ones head smashed against blunt rocks repeatedly. Sharp jumps leave the viewer wondering how a character gets from one place to the next and leave no concept of passage of time. To make matters worse, random voiceovers appear in unnecessary places for what seems like no purpose other than to have a voice speaking while pictures are moving past.
While Asa Butterfield almost perfectly fits the image of Ender, his flat acting strives to be as moving and emotional those who have seen Hugo know he can be. Yet he falls short, perhaps because even Ender’s character is set up to be larger than life from the start of the story and no amount of acting can keep up with that.
Fan’s of the book will expect the strong relationship between Ender and Violet, which is squishingly crushed under the weight of the war – in the cinematic adaptation, Violet serves as little more than inspiration for Ender to keep going and appears in merely two scenes. Ender’s older brother Peter is all but eliminated from the story.
While it is nice to see Harrison Ford on the big screen again after an absence of a few years, his character was confusingly mottled by his inability to maintain consistency. Ford seems to be unable to find a balance between the gruff and harsh shell of his character and the very small part of his interior that is actually a decent person – over-emoting in several scenes that involve Ender.
Bean’s shy, humble beginnings are washed over with the simple addition of placing him in Ender’s launch group. Endless pointless changes are made. I am understanding of the difference between visual storytelling and written storytelling, but as a viewer it was hard to make emotional or cerebral attachments to characters who seem to just glide through situations.
And of course, what can we expect from Gavin Hood, a man who directed the flinchingly wretched wreck that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hood’s script falls short of the genius of the 1985 Nebula-winning and 1986 Hugo-winning book it is based on. Ender’s Game plops on the screen much the way a badly skipped stone plops instead of making its first jump.
At the very least, Hood offers this stunted apology in a October 31, 2013 interview with the LA Times; “The book is the book, and it should be, and it’s always going to be the book. And there’s so much in that book. And the movie is the movie. And they’re two separate things. I don’t in any way want to suggest to anyone that our movie can replace the book. It can’t. They’re two separate mediums trying to look at and doing the best they can with their different tools. I can do things the book can’t do, and the book can do things that I can’t do.”