Ender’s Game shouldn’t work as a movie. The Orson Scott Card book has a repetitive plot with overly complicated character arcs. The space battle sequences are unfathomably mammoth. And it has an ending that overshadows the rest of the story. Yet somehow, Ender’s Game works as a movie in all the ways it struggled as a book.
In 2136, the International Fleet operates in space and trains young children to be warriors. Fifty years earlier, an alien species called Formics attacked the Earth but were fought off. The International Fleet is relying on the quick reflexes and ingenuity of children to fight the second war against the Formics that they’re sure is coming.
Ender Wiggin (Hugo’s Asa Butterfield) is the most promising student in the school and the focus of the attention of Col. Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and Maj. Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis). Ender has the perfect mix of empathy and violence to lead a war against the Formics and Graff makes it his mission to do whatever it takes to shape Ender to fit his prophetic role, no matter the personal cost to Ender himself.
Ender is recruited to Battle School, where he is isolated and bullied, but stands out with his creative solutions and calculated thinking. Ender is later promoted to Command School, where he and a select few of his former school squadron train on evolving simulations while the Formic threat grows more palpable by the day.
It’s impossible to write about the ending without ruining it and its power is strongest if those unfamiliar with Ender’s Game go in blind. Fans of the book who worried about how the ending would be handled cause rest assured, though, the emotional climax is done well.
Many of the extraneous plot threads of the book, especially involving Ender’s brother and sister, are wisely excised completely, which tightens the script considerably. Directed with a brisk pace by director Gavin Hood, the repetitiveness of the book is streamlined into a fast plot that never has time to wear out its welcome.
The Ender’s Game book series heavily influenced J.K. Rowling when she was writing the Harry Potter books, but now the boy wizard looks to have returned the favour in its reciprocal influence. Ender’s Game is compelling and entertaining, not just as a standalone movie but also as the beginning to a film series that just could be the next Harry Potter.