MRR Review: "Ender's Game"

Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment

MRR Review: "Ender's Game"

Rating: PG-13 (some violence, sci-fi action, and thematic material)
Length: 114 minutes
Release Date: November 1, 2013
Directed by: Gavin Hood
Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction

Futuristic science-fiction films seem to be the craze these days, and "Ender's Game" is no different in that regard. As with so many films of the genre, this movie is based on a book of the same name. Novelist Orson Scott Card wrote his military science-fiction novel back in 1985, but it has taken almost three decades for the book to finally be made into a film version. Originally, Card published his writings as a short story in a science-fiction magazine, but he later expanded it into a series that comprises more than a dozen novels, thirteen short stories, almost fifty comic issues, and now, of course, a film.

After publishing the novel "Ender's Game," Card was very reluctant to sell the rights to the film to Hollywood studios. In later years, Card explained that he did not want to give up artistic control, as this was a major sticking point for him. He was not completely against the idea of a film version of his work, but he did want to have a large say in what was to be produced. It took until 1996 for a screenplay to be penned, with Card deciding to take on the role himself after co-founding Fresco Pictures. After many years revising the script to get it just right, Card submitted a draft screenplay to Warner Bros. in 2003. The production company took that draft and refined it further, but it was not to Card's liking. Four years later, Card completed another screenplay that was quite different from any of the scripts he had previously written.

Part of the problem for Card, being both the author of the novel and the scriptwriter for a potential film, was that he felt too attached to the characters. He also struggled with making the script understandable for those who had not read the novel. In 2009, Card produced yet another script for the proposed film, but this time he submitted it to Odd Lot Entertainment. The following year, plans starting firming up, with Gavin Hood taking on the role of director for the project and making additional changes to the script. Card later stated that he only served as co-producer and that Hood had taken complete control of the screenplay.

Armed with a production budget of $110 million, "Ender's Game" secured some high-profile names to act in the film. While the lead actor Asa Butterfield, who plays Ender Wiggin, is relatively unknown among American film audiences, plenty of moviegoers are sure to recognize Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, and Abigail Breslin.

The opening scene of the film takes place in the year 2086, with a group of aliens known as the Formics attacking Earth. The film skips forward seventy years to show humans trying to work together to rid the galaxy of this alien race. Andrew "Ender" Wiggins is separated from his family and sent to the battle school that orbits the globe. Once there, Ender must work his way up the ranks to become the savior the planet needs.

While attending the battle school, Ender is forced to participate in a mind game. Little does Wiggins know that this mind game is used as a tool to secretly evaluate the mental state of the young hopefuls. After becoming a bit of a troublemaker, Ender asks to leave the battle school and return to Earth so that he can see his sister, Valentine. He is allowed to do so, but his sister convinces Ender to reenroll in the battle school.

Ender returns to the battle school, and on graduation day, he is set to take his final test. However, there's a twist that's not wholly unexpected—and it's one that will be anticipated by fans of the book.

"Ender's Game" opened in theaters on November 1 to mixed reviews from critics. Some complained that the film did not have the same effect as the book, while others commended the film for being a solid science-fiction thriller. It is too early to judge yet whether the film will be a hit with moviegoers, as "Ender's Game" has only been in theaters a matter of days. However, in that time, it has pulled in more than one-quarter of its production budget, suggesting that the film is on course to break even and perhaps even make a profit.

Rated 3.5 of 5 stars