Saturday, April 8, 2017

Ender's Game

Ender's Game; science-fiction, USA, 2013; D: Gavin Hood, S: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin, Aramis Knight

In the future, an alien ant-like species, called the Formics, attacks Earth and kills millions. However, they are stopped by pilot Mazer, who crashes his plane into their queen ship, and thus disabled all of them. 50 years later, Ender Wiggin is a teenage cadet who is bullied by his older brother, but adored by his sister. His intelligence is noticed by Colonel Graff who enlists him to train on a space station because he needs a commander who will allegedly counter-attack the Formics. Due to his ingenuity and creativity, Ender rises through the ranks and is brought to a former Formic planet, close to the home world of the alien race. Ender meets Mazer there, who is still alive, and who helps train him. Ender and his unit engage in a computer simulation of the attack on the planet of the Formics and destroy it - however, he soon finds out it wasn't a simulation, but the real thing. He is shocked that he committed genocide and is convinced the Formics only had defensive units, not offensive anymore. Ender quits the army and meets a dying Formic queen on the planet. He takes her egg and decides to help it recover on another planet.

The film adaptation of Orson Scott Card's eponymous and critically recognized novel, "Ender's Game" is a terribly underrated film, displaying a rare, intelligent and philosophical example of science-fiction films, but, alas, the majority of the audiences just want simplistic action without having to learn anything, and thus the movie had a box office result which sells (or rewards) its quality way too short. Even though it was released almost three decades after the novel was first published, the movie's dialogues and themes still seem as fresh as ever, thanks to Card's timeless writing, with only minimal flaws when translating it to the screen, since the story is simply clever, starting as a strategist military plot (Colonel Graff places high hopes in the intelligent outsider Ender, hoping to create the right conditions to ferment a "new Napoleon" who will fight against the alien race of the Formics) only to sweep the expectations in the dark, bitter plot twist near the end, contemplating about some high concepts revolving around the propaganda of the military that tricks even the brightest people into thinking that offensives are only defensive, and thus justified, which leads to terrible consequences and trauma.

Some of the dialogues are comical ("You cheated!" - "Your mother cheated, that's why you look like a plumber!") or smart (when Bonzo forbids him to train with others in front of everyone, Ender asks him to step outside. Ender knows Bonzo can change his mind, yet doesn't want to look like a coward in front of everyone, so he goes:  "If you wan't, I can pretend you won this argument. Then tomorrow you can tell me you changed your mind"; "We won! That's all that matters!" - "No. The *way* we win matters."), and all of them display a grand scheme in which Ender figures what the others want and tries to make the mill run his way by persuading them to follow his goal. Harrison Ford is remarkable in the role of Colonel Griff, convincingly portraying a man willing to do anything to achieve his goal, and who thus serves almost as a warning to what Ender may become as a grown up. The story is dense and there is no empty walk at all, though it seems slightly rushed at times whereas the open ending hints at a sequel that never happened — however, wanting even more from a story is a good sign. The cast is immaculate, the directing surprisingly restrained and calm whereas the film offers food for thought, and thus, despite a few shortcomings, it is wonderful that this movie got made at all.


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