Film Review | Ender’s Game

A good video game does not always make a good film

A still from ‘Ender’s Game’
A still from ‘Ender’s Game’

Technology can be a wonderful ally for a film-maker—films like Avatar and Gravity show how much computer graphics and the like can add to the storyline, and make the entire movie-watching experience more pleasurable. But increasingly, there are films that are beginning to resemble video games or are made by filmmakers who have grown up playing them, believing CGs can be a substitute rather than a collaborator to the plot.

Ender’s Game is one such film that’s inspired by video games—the characters tread a thin line in it between the imagined and the real. At some point, all of us who have toyed with these gadgets, have had the illusion that games mirror reality.

Based on a book by Orson Scott Card, director Gavin Hood takes us to an Earth that is under threat from aliens who want to take over the planet. They had tried before, several decades ago, but a unified force led by a hero had saved the day then. Now, Earth is looking for its next hero, among young boys and girls. Led by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), they zoom in on Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), an analytical, smart boy, who has certain emotional traits that would perhaps make him ideal for the job.

Ender is sent off to train for this mission, along with several other teenagers, who would form his army, where he would learn to lead, to be hated, to be intimidated and to take tough decisions under stressful circumstances.

A series of psychological games are played out, in Ender’s mind, as Major Anderson (Viola Davis) analyses him with the smug Colonel. A bunch of over-smart, over-competitive “kids” make up this make-believe world. There is also an under-developed side plot of Ender’s clingy relationship with his sister.

But it’s difficult to buy into this world. You can’t relate to the principle characters because they are too smart to be children and too trusting to be adults. The CGs are tiresome, the end predictable. There is no real tension even if the world is in danger. Some heavy duty names in the cast, including Ben Kingsley, go through their motions. Maybe a make-believe world of video games does not need an engaging story.

Ender’s Game released in theatres on Friday.

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