I’ve never heard of Ender’s Game before until recently. When I was at the cinema last Friday, I saw it was being shown, and vaguely remembered a trailer with Harrison Ford in a science fiction action movie. Based on that, I decided to see it. It turned out to be a story more for kids. Halfway through it, I was like, “Oh no, that’s it? Kids playing video games? Oh shit.”
Well, not just any kids and not just any video games. These are kids recruited by the army to learn and master war games to lead a pre-emptive attack on aliens. Not by actually physically getting into battleships but by commanding the attack from the control station. They play a lot of games to prepare, both video and a futuristic version of paintball conducted in a zero-gravity hall.
So, definitely a movie targeted to kids up till age 15, maybe. I imagine their faces in the theatre glowing with pride and happiness, watching a movie about another kid saving humanity with his video game skills, as they vow to spend even many more hours playing video games when they get home after the movie.
I can’t hate the movie though because it’s such a visual treat. I enjoyed the special effects.
Harrison Ford is wasted as a doting-grandfather version of a kind and understanding colonel. Viola Davis‘s talent is even more wasted as his Major Anderson. She was mostly just standing around looking gorgeous as she expressed compassion via how the kids are just kids and they shouldn’t be pushed too hard. Sir Ben Kingsley has an interesting role as a tough half-Maori mentor, but again, wasted as well, this time both actor and role.
Fortunately the lead actor Asa Butterfield was a very capable anchor for the movie. The 16-year-old did an excellent job portraying Ender Wiggin, a complex character: a young boy who is brilliant and savvy in handling his opponents but at the same time emotionally sensitive and troubled.
So Asa’s work and his role are two things I like about Ender’s Game besides the special effects. I also like it’s anti-war message, especially for a movie targeted to kids. The fifth thing I like is how the movie squeezes in even more diversity by having one of the good-guy supporting characters, Alai, wish Ender with ‘Assalamualaikum. Peace be upon you‘. Not only that, but in another scene Ender greets Alai with ‘Salam‘ as well. That was totally unexpected (I have not read the book), and I thought it was a sweet gesture for the movie to include this.
The sixth thing I like is that there’s no huge cliffhanger ending to irritate me. Yes, there’s an opening at the end for the story to continue, but the ending of the movie itself has a pretty decent closure.
My favourite parts of the movie though are the scenes involving bullying. A relevant topic that is a hot-button issue in these times. The scenes are harrowing but compelling, thought-provoking and heartbreaking. To me they can also serve to inspire kids in the audience to stand up to bullies, and that’s such a wonderful thing.