Cinema Review: Ender’s Game


DIR/WRI: Gavin Hood PRO: Orson Scott Card, Robert Chartoff , Lynn Hendee, Linda McDonough, Roberto Orci, Gigi Pritzker, Ed Ulbrich DOP: Donald McAlpine   ED: Lee Smith, Zach Staenberg DES: Sean Haworth Ben Procter CAST: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley

Is human imagination so undeveloped that we can’t envision monsters more gruesome than overgrown insects? Starship Troopers, The Fly, Tremors and now Ender’s Game.


The movie is based on Orson Scott Card’s 1985 bestselling novel, which has proven quiet prophetic. Card’s novel predicted a future of drone warfare and a world where games and reality have merged. Both the novel and film draw on these themes and pose some interesting questions; like in a world where reality is experienced through computer screens, where does the moral responsibility lie for our actions? This could apply to the current online trend of insulting strangers from a safe distance, or waging war on an unknown alien race, as is the case with Ender’s Game.


In Ender’s Game, our world came close to destruction by an invading aliens, referred to as ‘Buggers’. Humankind has poured all resources into developing its military force to prevent such an attack ever happening again. The movie follows the latest batch of recruits as they are trained up for elite military service. So far, so familiar. But Ender’s Game has a Bugsy Malone style twist, as all these new Battle School recruits are kids. A gruff Harrison Ford, aptly named Colonel Graff, plays the future Kony of this children’s army.


Child soldiers are used as they are considered more adept to the possibilities of technology, making them the better candidates for this new brand of military warfare. This could prove to be a sticking point for some, as it can often feel like an adult movie overrun by kids. There are times when you would be forgiven for thinking – Really? This battalion of adolescents are humankind’s best chance for survival? But if you can manage to suspend disbelief on this point, you’ll enjoy this movie.



The movie follows the fate of Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) as he rises up the ranks of Battle School. If the classic, sci-fi romp Starship Troopers took a gory, tongue-in-cheek look at future alien warfare, then Ender’s Game is its sanitised, cyberspace modern equivalent. In this future scenario, space warfare is concerned with military tactics over brute strength. The result of this is that the action is always on a large scale, with giant space ships and exploding planets. A pet hate of mine is when CGI turns into indiscernible banging and crashing of large machinery (you know who you are, Michael Bay!) But Ender’s Game makes impressive use of CGI, resulting in some epic space battles – this is one to see on the big screen.



In Colonel Graff’s search for “the one” who will save earth, Ender Wiggins soon emerges as the perfect candidate, excelling in all the area’s that make a leader. However, he is difficult to completely root for as a character. Ender is no cheeky rogue, like the the young Captain Kirk, or a plucky, naïve newcomer like Luke Skywaker. Instead, he has the demeanour of a levelheaded, middle-aged accountant, coolly calculating the risks and pitfalls of each scenario presented to him. He seems so capable at every challenge that they barely seem like challenges at all – and this is a young teenager on track to be Commander-in-Chief of the entire military forces – he might at least break a sweat!



Ender’s Game is a movie that wants to be taken seriously, even with a plot involving adolescents on a quest to save earth. The fact that it has serious overtones, but with a young cast makes it difficult to know if it’s meant to be a movie for kids or adults. The upshot of this ambiguity is that it’s open to everyone. It’s refreshing to see a popcorn blockbuster that’s made for both adults and kids and this sci-fi epic won’t fail to entertain. In the 1980s, films like WarGames, The Goonies and Flight of the Navigator happily threw child characters into the fray. Ender’s Game continues that noble tradition.


Deirdre Mc Mahon

12A (See IFCO for details)

113 mins
Ender’s Game is released on 25th October 2013

Ender’s Game – Official Website


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