PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

November 1, 2013

'Ender' good, but short of classic

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— Orson Scott Card's seminal science fiction novel, "Ender's Game" finally makes it to the big screen this week, providing fans with an uneasy cause for celebration. We're thrilled to see one of our favorite stories up on the big screen, but also worried that no movie could ever capture the book's dark themes, memorable characters or fascinating imagery.

For the most part, "Ender's Game" does successfully walk the line between giving fans what they want while dumbing-down the story so that general audiences can follow what's happening. Fans of Scott's book will be mostly pleased, while predictable grousing that the book is far superior to the movie. I certainly fall into this camp, but I'm not sure how "Ender's Game" could have been any better without turning it into a fifteen-hour miniseries.

For those of you unfamiliar with "Ender's Game," the story thrusts us into a near-future world where mankind was nearly wiped out by an extraterrestrial attack. Earth's military leaders scour the planet for a leader who could protect us from a second attack. They are looking for somebody with the right mixture of intelligence, empathy and a killer instinct. Col. Graff (Harrison Ford) thinks he's found someone special in the form of a young boy named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield).

Ender needs some training first, so he is sent off to Battle School where he is constantly under attack from the older cadets who think they're better than our pint-sized hero. Those other cadets are wrong about Ender. He forms a team of misfit mini-warriors that excel at the school's never-ending war games. They are able to handle any challenge that appears, even when the command school simulations appear to be impossible to defeat.

Those battle school games are quite exciting, thanks to some stunning special effects work. I suspect that general audiences may have trouble following what's happening in some of the battles, but there is no denying that those sequences are thrilling to behold. This is certainly a movie that deserves to be seen up on the biggest screen available.

The acting is also quite good, given that many of the players are inexperienced school kids. Asa Butterfield excels in the title role. He's quite believable as the isolated boy genius who refuses to surrender, no matter what the odds.

I did miss the exclusion of some of the subplots and characters, including one that is vital to understand if the filmmakers ever hope to bring any of Card's other books to the big screen. I understand why this has to happen, but the fan boy in me is still disappointed.

"Ender's Game" won't ever be considered a science fiction classic movie, despite its literary pedigree. That being said, it is a thrilling and thought-provoking recreation of a beloved science fiction classic. Not only is the fan boy in me happy about the movie, but I immediately left the theater wanting to revisit Ender Wiggin's adventures through Scott's other books.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.