Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Ender's Game

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Francesca Rudkin examines the movie that 12-year-old boys around the world will fall in love with.
For a film aimed at teens, Ender's Game provokes thought but lacks humour.
For a film aimed at teens, Ender's Game provokes thought but lacks humour.

Gavin Hood's sci-fi teen adventure looks stunning, with zero gravity stunts and sophisticated computer-simulated battles all accompanied by a thundering soundtrack.

It's fair to say 12-year-old boys will think Ender's Game is pretty awesome.

This action is set against some heady and serious themes, with Orson Scott Card's science fiction novel, from which Ender's Game is adapted, given the gravitas it deserves.

The most obvious is the idea of an army of innocent kids being turned into killing machines to fight the wars of their elders, while over-population and how winners get to rewrite history also get an airing.

Fear, though, is the driving motivation. It's set in a future, 70 years after the International Fleet has defeated the Formics - a race of insect-like aliens intent on colonising the planet. But Earth's military remains obsessed with wiping out the Formics and preventing another attack.

At a school run by Colonel Graff (Ford), a collection of the brightest teenage students are trained in combat and space warfare. Colonel Graff believes that in student Andrew "Ender" Wiggin he's found the one kid with the ability to finally defeat the Formics. Most of the film follows Ender and his fellow cadets as they undergo their military training where they specialise in strategy.

All these training exercises start to drag after a while; a touch of humour somewhere during proceedings would have been appreciated.

Harrison is in great form as Colonel Graff, and Butterfield (Hugo) is impressive presenting the complex Ender, a boy torn between compassion and his sense of duty. The only casting misstep is Ben Kingsley, as a mentor to Ender, who is confusing with a Maori moko and accent like an Australian-gone-bush-in-South Africa.

The Hunger Games has prepared us for the shock of seeing children used to wage an adult's war, but Ender's Game still gives us a startling conclusion (assuming you haven't read the book).

It takes itself a bit too seriously and would have benefited from twisting the entertainment dial a little higher, but it's refreshing to see a film filled with teens that's intelligent and reflective.


Cast: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
Director: Gavin Hood
Running time: 114 mins
Rating: M (violence)
Verdict: A sombre, visually impressive space adventure.

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