Randy's Review - 'Ender's Game'

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kids train to battle aliens in first piece of space tale

It's 2136, 50 years after an attack on earth by an alien species called the Formics -- who resemble large ants -- and young teens are trained in preparation for a possible second invasion.

The first time, the world was unprepared for the first onslaught and millions died. If there's a next time, "the world will be ready" is the basic philosophy offered.

A small, young cadet, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is identified for his particular skill set after he defeats a school bully in a virtual program and is then forced to take the much bigger angry boy down physically in the aftermath.

Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford), who monitors the altercation from a monitor, is certain, with the right training, Ender could be the one to lead the world's International Fleet forces against the aliens.

Ender leaves his family, including his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin), whom he considers his one true friend, and his older violent brother to train at Battle School.

Initially an outcast, Ender finds his path tough as he must prove himself to the others in training. Every time he begins to make ground with his peers, Ender's moved up the ladder to the next level of training by Graff, where he is forced to start over in attempts to gain respect and acceptance.

Watching and cautioning along the way is Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis), who is concerned more with Ender's childhood than his soldiering capabilities. Graff stresses there's no time to worry about such things as he continues to watch the aliens prepare for battle.

Thrust into the Salamander Army, the newbie finds himself in immediate conflict with Commander Bonzo Madrid (Moises Arias), who has perhaps the worst case of short-man syndrome ever. Threatened by Ender, the two never see eye-to-eye. Along the way, Ender strikes up a friendship with another trainee, Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), and the two train and begin bonding as they continue to prepare for war.

Eventually of course, Ender gets his own unit to command and he and his team find themselves training at the outer limits of the aliens' home planet, preparing to make sure the earth is never at risk again.

I will admit I was pleasantly surprised with "Ender's Game." Very popular teen and young adult book series sometimes translate well to the big screen and sometimes they don't. I think this one worked. While I've never read the books, the story involving the use of teens because they benefit from youthful skill sets lost as adults age is intriguing. Yet, the adults are still there to train and command the fundamental training.

You tend to feel sorry for Ender as he finds himself tossed into a world of ego-bloated young men, all of whom seem to despise the fact that he is aggressively promoted up the leadership chain.

It's refreshing to see Ender begin to develop friends and generate a certain loyalty as others start understanding that he does have a gift for warfare tactics.

Ender's final training sequence will keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait to see if he indeed has what it takes to lead the mission to protect the earth.

Look for a sequel, as the film's conclusion suggests. It looks like there's no immediate "end" in site for Ender.

Randy's Rating - On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, "Ender's Game" fills 3 1/2. But don't wait too long to eat it, because in space there's no gravity to keep the delicious buttery puffed goodness in the bucket. The special effects are out-of-this-world (pun intended) with particular emphasis on the training battles in the zero gravity room. With solid acting and a unique story line, Ender's Game is a worthy addition to the sci-fi genre. Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes. MPAA Rating: PG-13. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 in Spencer.

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