Better left on the bookshelf

ENDER'S GAME: A curious and strangely uninvolving experience.
ENDER'S GAME: A curious and strangely uninvolving experience.

Directed by Gavin Hood
114 mins


Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Game is a cult favourite, but really, there's a reason why it's taken more than 25 years to bring it from page to screen.

Sure, it features spectacular technology, a headstrong young protagonist and some potentially thorny ethical quandaries. Yet for science-fiction, it's surprisingly uncinematic.

Ender's Game deals with an Earth reeling from the effects of a battle with a mysterious, bug-like alien race.

The authorities have spent the last 50 years training adolescents in the hope of finding a superstar general who could end the war. Enter Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a bullied, morose outsider who might just have what it takes.

Butterfield is suitably aggrieved and conflicted, but Ender is so perfect it renders his ascension to the top ranks as a fait accompli. His fellow classmates have to disappear into the background.

The adults fare little better. As Colonel Graff, Harrison Ford is absurdly dictatorial in his demands of his young students.

Yet Ford sleepwalks through the picture, rising only to shout occasional platitudes about destiny and rightness.

Meanwhile, a tattooed Ben Kingsley is so weird as legendary general Mazer as to be beamed from an entirely different film.

(His "accent" should be studied by linguists).

Much of the dialogue consists of incomprehensible commands barked in simulations, while a subplot about Ender yearning for his sister back home is not developed enough to be affecting.

Director Gavin Hood tries his hardest, but the spectacular space vistas can't hide the fact watching young children play simulations is as interesting as watching someone else play a computer game you don't get to play. The final "twist" upturns much of what happened before, but by then, most people would have switched off.

This is a curious and strangely uninvolving experience, which never figures out its audience. Sometimes, it's better just to leave the book on the shelf.

The Timaru Herald