by Terrance Mc Arthur
Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.
In 1977, Orson Scott Card wrote a science-fiction story, Ender’s Game, about children fighting mock battles in space while learning to save Earth from the alien invaders who killed millions at their first contact, half a century before. In 1985, Card turned that story into a novel, one that he considered unfilmable because much of the action was people in space and another chunk of it took place inside the mind of Ender Wiggin, on the fast track to becoming a military leader before he reached puberty. With the technology of today that exceeds the science fiction of 1977, Ender’s Game has become a feast for the eye that challenges the brain.
There are a lot of special F/X as swarms of spacecraft battle or as squads of cadets careen around a zero-g battle sphere. There’s lots of talking as the morality of turning kids into interstellar killers is debated by Harrison Ford (more craggy Indiana Jones than cynical Han Solo) as the military director of training and Viola Davis (more Alfre Woodard and less The Help) as the team psychologist. There’s lots of angst, as Ender (Asa Butterfield) fears that the anger and sociopathic violence that made his brother wash out of the training program will take over his mind. There’s lots of semi-teen yearning between Ender and Petra (Hallee Steinfeld)as she helps him prepare for battle and romance (Nothing happens—not even a kiss—but he looks at her a lot in confusion and she looks at him in admiration). There’s even a dose of Yoda-like, tough-love wisdom from Ben Kingsley as a face-tattooed Maori veteran of the first war against the ant-like extra-terrestrials. The film’s director, Gavin Hood, makes a cameo appearance as a nasty video-game giant.
Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) starts out blank-faced, void of emotion but possessed of unnaturally blue eyes. Ender’s sole desire is to find ways to avoid conflict, including the “don’t beat me up, but you can tell everybody you did” gambit, but he’ll use any methods (read “ultraviolence”) to win and keep his opponent from coming back. Gradually, he develops emotions, attachments, responsibility—and guilt.
There are some serious themes: exploitation of children, how truth can be the first casualty of war, and how the qualities that make a great leader are the same ones that are hated by society. You may talk about the spectacular visuals and the amazing logistics, but you might talk about humanity…and violence…and trust.
Ender’s Game is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6, also in 3D. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.