If The Last Starfighter was shown on a double-bill with Starship Troopers, then you might arrive somewhere near Ender’s Game. Based on Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel, the first in a series of adventures for space cadet Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, this YA outing strains for The Hunger Games’ mass audience, but falls short.
With Earth devastated after an attack from insect-like aliens – called ‘Buggers’ – plans are put in place to fend off a second wave. Enter Ender (Hugo’s Asa Butterfield), the hottest new trainee at a military academy designed to uncover kids with the courage, reflexes and tactical skills to overcome these bloody Buggers (sorry).
Director Gavin Hood has never been afraid of lacing his movies with politics (see Tsotsi and Rendition) – and Ender’s Game strikes the right balance between debate and destruction.
The wiry, wide-eyed Butterfield convinces as Ender, not least going boot-to-boot with Harrison Ford, who plays Col. Graff, the military man charged with shaping up these adolescents. Less successful is a facially tattooed Sir Ben Kingsley, as a one-time pilot who now sits around like Buddha with a bug up his butt.
Also disappointing is the minimal screen time given to Ender’s sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) and a third act that never delivers emotionally, considering how much is at stake. With a conclusion more frustrating than frightening, by the end, er, the game’s up.
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