Movie Review: Ender’s Game

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MV5BMjAzMzI5OTgzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTU5MTAwMDE@__V1_SX214_While I ended up getting hooked on “The Hunger Games,” there’s still hesitation whether another children warrior adaptation would nearly be as compelling.  To be honest, the trailer of “Ender’s Game, directed by Gavin Hood and shown at Comic-Con this summer, wasn’t that enticing; it looks like a superficial, CGI-focused sci-fi.  As it turns out, the Orson Scott Card’s novel adaptation is more than flash.

50 years ago, earth was attacked by ant-like aliens, called the Formics.  Humans were ill-prepared and countless lives were lost.  While a hero, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley, “Iron Man 3”)emerged and drove away the aliens, fear remains that they would return someday.

Children are thought to be the best defense.  Trained in video games, they are used to making decisive decisions fearlessly based on instinct, and their youth translates to quicker learning ability.  The most gifted ones are trained in military school, graduating to the elite battle camp in space, and ending up in the command center, closer to the aliens’ home planet.  It is in these battlegrounds these children are physically trained, mentally manipulated, and socially isolated in order to prepare them to win the war.

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield, “Hugo”) is tested and selected by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford, “Cowboys & Aliens“) and his colleague, Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) to be the “chosen one,” to lead and save the human race.  A skinny 12-year old boy, Ender is a loner with a brilliant mind.

The film is off to a startling start where Ender is bullied and shockingly gets out of a threatening situation.  As the story progresses, his brilliance shines through, which can be seen from his interactions with his superiors and fellow soldiers (Moises Arias, Hailee Steinfeld).  He’s a complex child, teetering between steely ruthlessness and human compassion.  An intellectual strategist with a killer instinct and tactical insight, he observes, anticipates, understands how his opponents think, and plans his moves perfectly.  His backstory reveals the dynamic of his relationship with his violent brother and close bond with his caring sister.

Visually, the movie is a fireworks of digital images and special effects.  The battle room, where cadets train with battle formations in zero-gravity, is a wonder to discover, even coming on the heels of “Gravity.” The futuristic wars are electrifying in neon blues and electric orange, against the backdrop of a black space.

But amidst all the fireworks, the message doesn’t get lost.  What is the true cost of war, the price of politics to win, the meaning of the morality of the preemptive strike?   Is the chance of winning future battles and saving the world worth a genocide and damaging innocent souls?   The endgame of “Ender’s Game” hits home.

Copyright (c) 2013. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, film columnist and travel/lifestyle writer. She can be reached at  Nathalia owns a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter:

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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