Friday, January 24, 2014

Film Review: Ender's Game

Copyright: Summit Entertainment
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about this movie is one word - clogged. Everything about this film, and the atmosphere that surrounded it almost since it entered preproduction was strangely overbearing and dense as plutonium.

The novel Ender’s Game was an instant science fiction classic. Its author, Orson Scott Card is a galactic jackass who opposes  same-sex marriage and views homosexuality though his religiously colored glasses, painted mostly in the colour “judge everybody”. Also, he apparently thinks that Barak Obama is high on the evil scale and discredits the research on global warming, although he sees it as “asking for the other opinion”. In essence, Card seems like the kind of guy that has a problem with a lot of kinds of people he never actually met. When the movie got out, some people called for a boycott because of Card’s judgmental views. Before the film even got to the theatres, the noise around it started to grow.

In spite of the Card’s jackassness, his novel is fantastic. In it he presented a story about a boy named Ender, who is in training to become one of humanities military leaders in the war against a bug-like aliens who, by the way, started it first! Several decades prior to the events of the movie/novel, an unsuspecting Earth is hit by their invasion fleet and nearly conquered or destroyed. In Ender’s time, humanity is preparing for another and possibly final showdown with the alien scum.

Gavin Hood accepted the opportunity to direct this film, and he did give it his best. But, like the atmosphere, this film is clogged in every aspect. From the start, Ender is a military cadet that doesn’t fit in. His altercation with a fellow student gets him suspended, but at the same time, gets him promoted to a space station where the next chapter of his training begins. And a lot more stuff also begins, all at the same time, from Enders personal journey right to the survival of humanity and the future of the unknown alien race.

The dialogues in this film never end. We get a break from talking just for a few seconds when the camera makes a panning motion around the space station. During mock battles when Ender and other cadets train, we still hear continuous conversations, arguments and every other form of verbal communications, because so much information has to be presented to the audience. Ender, played convincingly by Asa Butterfield, doesn’t stop throughout the film, and he is always doing something intensely. It doesn’t matter if it’s crying, training, debating, fighting or pleading. Every second in his life is a matter of intergalactic life of death, and this is simply an unsustainable premise.

This premise, however flawed, came from the right place. Hood and his writers tried to capture everything in the novel, and this was a fool’s errand. So many things take place in the course of 114 minutes that it’s not possible to connect with Ender, and even less possible to get to know and understand his mentors Colonel Hyrum Graff and Mazer Rackham (played by fantastic Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley). Both are excellent in their roles, but it doesn’t make a difference because they pop in and out of the story all the time. And I couldn’t perceive them as relevant just because they were intended to be that.

If Wolf of the Wall Street got 3 hours, Hood had to fight harder for more time too. And I bet he did, but there were mostly like serious men in serious suits who told him that the targeted demographic doesn’t like films that are longer than 2 hours.

So much money and talent were invested in Ender's Game that I couldn’t say it’s bad. But at the same time it’s cold as outer space, and left me feeling similar. Unfortunately, I believe that the controversy surrounding Card will outlive the film itself.