Running time: 114 minutes
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Stanfield, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
Who to see it with: Political science fiction fans
Book adaptation Ender's Game is set in a future where smart children and teens are trained to fill the ranks of the military in preparation for a war with an alien race called the Formics. For some odd reason, Colonel Graff (Ford) is looking to find the fleet's next commander among the youth, and strategic and clever "Ender" Wiggin (Butterfield) seems especially promising.
Ender's unusually cold character is much more interesting than the others, who basically are around enough only to serve as partners or foils in his battle school trials. Some of his later character developments seem fairly sudden. The explanation of a particularly important event makes little sense. (I haven't read the book, but it feels like a necessary plot point was told in a different, less satisfying way.) EG feels like a lengthy prelude to a second film until very late in the story, like a military story that almost entirely takes place at boot camp. Nothing's wrong with that when boot camp is the meat of the story, but EG's battle school offers little more than an interesting protagonist, some cool visuals and a decent story about a rebellious teen clashing with peers and authority. The ending makes past events more complex, in retrospect, but it doesn't change the way that EG's plot mostly plays like a rough boarding school in a cool setting. It's much more intriguing than the rest of the film, which is fine with its pretty good special effects and fun, but standard school conflicts. From what I know of the book's ending, it seems to be simplified in a way that more easily leads into a film sequel, arriving at a similar destination while losing some of its impact. Ender's Game is a decent, sci-fi twist on military school drama with a few complex themes and an unusually complex teen protagonist.