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Film Review: Ender’s Game

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Eponymous films are a rarity in Hollywood these days. The name of a character appearing in a title has throughout the early 21st century been reserved for biopics (Lincoln, Diana, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and the Harry Potter series. However, there’s a new kid on the block who’s name is plastered across the marketing and dialogue of his film- Ender Wiggin, played by Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas star Asa Butterfield, one child star who has proven himself to have equal dramatic range and screen presence as his adult contemporaries in recent years, working with Martin Scorsese to magical results and appearing in a recurring role in BBC’s Merlin. His star-power has truly been tested for the first time, however, with Ender’s Game, which features neither the behind-the-camera talent of Hugo nor the literary source of Pajamas. Butterfield does not, mind you, have to carry the weight of this $110m production alone, as Movie Star Supreme Harrison Ford has tagged along for the ride, scowling and smirking his way through surprisingly honest scenes in equal measure.

The themes of self-professed homophobe Orson Scott Card’s decades-old science-fiction novel, on which the film is based, are apparently far darker than those that appear in Origin: Wolverine leader Gavin Hood’s adaptation. In the book, Ender is six rather than Butterfield’s sixteen- a decision made both to make the film less emotionally disturbing and to add a pathetic and utterly unbelievably romantic subplot between Ender and Hailee Steinfeld’s Petra (a frontrunner for Worst Token Female of 2013). Then again, why can’t two six-year olds fall for each other? It would fit perfectly in the surreally old-fashioned and unusually odd universe of Hood’s film.

Ender’s Game is a film that isn’t really worth seeing. However, it’s better to see it and make up your own mind about why the hell it exists than read someone else’s opinion of it. There is a recurring plot in which Ender plays a video game featuring a mouse hero, which eventually gets more and more terrifying and warped until a major twist reveals its true nature. Make of it what you will, including this in a family-oriented holiday blockbuster, but the thought of a sequel being made no matter how this does financially is laughable!

Grade: ☆☆☆

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Lucien writes on film, television and politics at LuwdMedia.com and co-hosts the podcasts Above All Else and The 99%.

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