Ender’s Game strategised an adaptation that annihilated its own source material. Obliteration. Destruction. Decimation. War, in all its principles, sets out to bring peace through nihilistic chaos. Battles commanded by lieutenants whom implement strategies to garner victories amongst enemies. Followers obeying orders from leaders, like ants instinctively abiding by queens. Brute strength alone cannot muster peace, intrinsic intelligence must also be integrated, creating that much desired harmonious balance.
Card’s original sci-fi novel sits among the very best of its genre. Portraying tacticians through propagandism. Manipulating the youth into battling endless hordes of simulated aliens. Granting “Ender” an opportunity like no other. To lead a galactic army. Hood’s adaptation is fuelled with cosmically arresting visuals, grandiose battleships flooding the backdrop of Ender’s zero-gravity training montages. Pitted in gunfire tournaments, enabling strategies of war to come bursting through the metallic shielding surrounding the spherical arena. Gorgeously rendered rag-doll bodies obeying the laws of physics when paralysed without any noticeable green screen. Intensely designed swarms of insectoid characteristics rapture the atmospheric skies, providing aerial excitement throughout.
Alas, for all its technical merit, Hood’s adaptation is unable to tackle the bulk of Card’s story in a captivating manner. Ender’s Game is treated much like the “mind game” that the titular character uncovers. Ender and his peers are all one-dimensional, with the ironic emotional capacities of ants. The morality conflict that resides within Ender, as he becomes occasionally inflicted with rage, failed to exert any kinetic energy. Partly due to Butterfield’s mellow pubescent performance, but mostly due to the expositional screenplay that treats its characters like chess pieces. Clinical without an ounce of relatability towards anyone. Seriously hindering the conclusive nature of the story, which just so happens to be a terrible ending regardless.
The older generation of actors unfortunately looked bored, particularly Davis and Kingsley. Ford gives a decent enough performance, albeit monotonous. The constant shift between batches of characters, especially the transition between Ender’s preliminary training and the subsequent promotion, skewed the pacing even further. And again, that ending was atrocious. Never mind the conclusive narration that unimaginatively left the film open-ended. Just the entire simulated ordeal in itself was handled poorly. Not to mention the obscene absence of authority from all actors involved. Shouting loudly isn’t authoritative. It’s annoying.
In the end (heh heh), this simulated game falls short in the tactical psychology of warfare that Card’s novel lovingly produced. Fantastical visuals can’t disguise wooden acting and flimsy storytelling. Ender should’ve just called it quits at the beginning.