Gavin Hood, Sci-Fi, 114 mins, January 18
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld
It seems that Sci-Fi is truly back in vogue. With Abrams not only reinvigorating the Star Trek brand for a new audience, but reigniting the flames under the slumbering Star Wars series, it is inevitable that the studios will look to tried and tested stories to try and find a franchise worth clinging to (the Twilight, Harry Potter and Hunger Games franchises all lined the pockets of many a movie mogul).
So Ender’s Game was truly a sleeping giant that could potentially be hiding fortunes untold; having won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for best novel in 1985 and 1986 respectively, the book’s popularity shot up after the film was announced, as it became a best-seller once again. But is this adaptation worth a watch, or is it yet another project filed securely in the “the book was much better” category?
Director Gavin Hood has made this a labour of love, having penned the screenplay as well as straddling the director’s chair. He has a stellar cast to play with, with Ford playing the stern Colonel Graff, his trademark grumblings interspersed with fragments of harsh discipline and “this hurts me more than it hurts you” moments. Kingsley is given yet another role that he nails, and of which you wish you could see more. Butterfield is also perfect as Ender, a boy who has to have his potential dragged out of him through intimidation, threats, trials and trickery. The idea that these young recruits, with their inherent gaming skills, have the ability to save the universe will no doubt please many a teenage-geek hunkered over their Xbox, but the harsh boot camp and awesome zero gravity games make this fantastic narrative that much more believable.
Some omissions from the book have been made; the bad guys are no longer known as “buggers” but “Formics,” and the futuristic technology has been updated to fit our modern sensibilities. But these are just minor alterations that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is a fun, absorbing and oftentimes thought-provoking family flick. Is it better than the book? It’s no Godfather, but I’d say it was the best attempt in recent memory.