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Mr. Brown Verses Ender's Game

Before I begin this review, let me state that this review is purely about the merits of the film, and not about what I think about it's author, Orson Scott Card. Yes, I paid money to see the big-screen adaptation of his influential sci-fi novel and like I said earlier, if you end up boycotting the film because you feel that you'd be giving money to an unrepentant homophobe, that's your decision and I don't begrudge you from doing what you feel is morally right in your mind.

Ender's Game looks fantastic. The visual effects are quite impressive as we are immersed in this futuristic world where Earth is on the verge of another attack from an alien race known as the Formics which, but unsuccessfully, tied to colonize the planet in 2086. Fearing that the Formics will try to make another advance, Col. Graff (Harrison Ford) and Maj. Gwen Anderson recruit Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield of 2011's Hugo), a bright cadet in the military space program. He is taken to Battle School program, where Ender excels at battle strategy, to the point where he is shipped off to Command School and believed to be the next Mazer Rackham, the pilot who bravely sacrificed himself in order to defeat the hostile invader's mother ship. As the day draws near, Ender wonders whether or not Graff ,or the International Military for that matter, have his best interests at heart. The acting is also another plus. Butterfield, Ford, Davis and Haliee Steinfeld (yes, the same Steinfeld that starred in Romeo and Juliet) as Petra, the young cadet who becomes one of Ender's closest friends and allies during Battle School and Commander School, are all solid in their roles.

That's about all Ender's Game has going for it. Watching this movie feels like I'm playing a video game, but I'm not in control of the game. There are loads of top-notch visual effects of Ender and the other trainees floating around inside a zero-gravity battle room, but there's no sense of wonder when we see these sequences. And the last leg of the movie is boring as well: there's plenty of scenes of Ender playing simulated war games, but because this is all just pretend, there's no weight behind the action scenes. It feels like an excuse to add in an action scene because the viewer is getting bored of seeing subplots that would be more intriguing to the film become nothing more than plot points.

No, really: writer/director Gavin Hood (the man responsible for the dismal X-Men Origins: Wolverine) allows interesting points in the story to go to the wayside. Take Peter, Ender's older brother, for example. When he is seemingly kicked out of the International Military academy, they play a game where Peter threatens to beat up his little brother to a pulp. Peter didn't make the cut because he's too much of a sociopath. His sister, Valentine (Abagail Breslin) also tried to go through the program, but she was too soft. Ender is a version of both personality traits of Peter and Valentine; when pushed he can be deadly, but he also has the ability to empathize with people. This would make for an excellent launching point the main character's inner-conflict between two extreme personality types and Ender's fear that he'll end up like his brother, but the male sibling character on has one scene! Just one! After the bullying sequence we never see him on-screen again, as he's only described about his nature by the main character and Col. Graff. Are you kidding me?!

Another subplot is the relationship between Ender and Petra. There is a strong bond as the two become close friends and there's a hint that they might be mutual feeling shared between the two, but this is never explored either. in fact, their relationship, platonic or otherwise, feels kinda rushed. Why are they friends? I know the book and the script say so, but show us this connection they have! That's the whole movie, essentially: It feels like there's so much to explore, but we're not given enough time to find out because the filmmakers are moving us to the next effects-laden set piece to keep us entertained. As a result, interesting aspects of the film don't have a closing arc and even worse is the fact that the actors, like Steinfeld, Breslin, Kingsley and Jimmy Pinchak who plays Peter, don't really have much to do but to follow what's written on the page. Ender's Game is just straight boring. It's not the worst movie I'll see this year, but it is one of the most disappointing and unsatisfying experiences I've had this year.

* 1/2 stars out of ****


  1. The sad part about this is that the movie actually looked decent in the trailers. I can't say more than that about the movie itself, but regarding Card's views, people have to realize that, even though he's getting a share of the movie, this would be cutting off your nose to spite your face had this turned out better, because you're not boycotting his work- You're boycotting someone else's work based on his material.

    I mean, I'll never support Jon Bon Jovi or Eddie Vedder in a million years because, whether or not you like their work, both have this "compassion as a business" brand of charity actually puts charitable organizations out of business, and the fucking douchebags are proud of that. They know what really comes out of their work, and they're proud of it. But every now and again, someone comes along that the way they interpret their work in a way that's impossible to ignore, and I can support that artist, without compromising my opinion of the original.

    Well, Bon Jovi and Pearl Jam might be bad examples, because monkeys with rickets can show them up anyways... But you get my drift. If you protest a movie over the author of the novel it's based on, you're just hurting the director. Just like if you refuse to listen to a remake of a song because you hate the original band/version/whatever.

    Just have to throw that out there.

  2. "...regarding Card's views, people have to realize that, even though he's getting a share of the movie, this would be cutting off your nose to spite your face had this turned out better, because you're not boycotting his work- You're boycotting someone else's work based on his material."

    I think this is where I fall, in the end. Yes, Card's views are nasty and mean-spirited, but he's not the one who wrote and directed the film.


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