As anyone who follows this blog can tell you, I'm a sucker for sci-fi films and television. Combine that with coming of age literature and the appeal is irresistible. It's like mixing peanut butter and chocolate, the two great tastes that taste great together. So with time on my hands last night, and access to HBO GO, I took a plunge into Earth's future to follow the challenges of a boy named Ender.
The first thing I can say about the film is that it's visually stunning. I've always thought CGI works best when it isn't trying to create moving active beings that end up looking like a fake mess (Transformers anyone?). When it's used to create settings, especially in space, the results are typically breathtaking. Ender's Game is a visually beautiful movie, almost any frame can be taken and looked upon as art. But visual wonder is only worthwhile if there is substance behind it.
Ender's Game definitely has substance. At the heart of the story, it deals with issues of leadership and command, not to mention those of loyalty that go hand-in-hand with leading. It tackles these things in interesting, if not exactly profound ways. In some ways Ender is too much of a natural leader, never struggling with the obstacles in his way. His struggles stem more from authority as he remains forever suspicious, though too trusting, of those above him.
The aspect of the story that really appealed to me was this idea of mass indoctrination of the selected children and the way they'd been manipulated into treating war like a game. When the book was written in 1985, that was simply science-fiction projection, but today it's reality. We've seen our military use video games to train soldiers, and you know they secretly love the way Call of Duty and the like desensitize their potential soldiers. The problem with violent games is that they are fun, and winning is fun, but while in the game, the player easily disconnects the situations from any sense of reality. The consequences of this show themselves to dramatic effect in the film, giving the climax an emotional weight that the rest of the film seems to lack.
In the end, Ender's Game suffers a little from the same symptoms of many movies of the past decade. Visually Stunning. Emotionally Vacant. Though Ender is faced with many opportunities to develop a deep sense of character, the film never really goes there until the very end. Definitely a worthwhile film that I enjoyed. There was nothing to really dislike, but then again nothing about it that I truly loved either. By the time it was over, I found myself really looking forward to reading the book.