Going to see a movie based on a book is always risky because it's almost never as good. It becomes even riskier when that book is a world famous classic and regarded as one of best (if not the best) in its genre. However, there is no risk higher than seeing such a film with rabid fans of that book and have been looking forward to seeing it for 20 years. That's what I did when I brought my friend Matt and his friend Shane with me to see it on the Esquire IMAX screen. As we walked into the theater I said a small prayer in my head that the film would be, not just good, but excellent; otherwise those two would burn that place to the ground. As you may have noticed, the Esquire IMAX is still standing because my prayer was answered.
Ender's Game is book written by Orson Scott Card in 1985 and is widely accepted as one of the best science-fiction novels ever written and one of the only of that genre taught in high schools and heavily suggested reading for Marines. You can see its influence in teen fiction still such as the Harry Potter series. It's about how a young boy has such a natural gift for military tactics that he's put through training to command the entire International Fleet against an alien foe. The story is easily applied to any era and is way before its time in technology.
The film version was written and directed by Gavin Hood. That's a huge gamble because after he made the disaster X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I would have considered him one of the most overrated directors in Hollywood. However, the South African made this his passion project and it shows. The film is executed wonderfully. Everything from the casting to spectacular FX to a goosebump-inducing score is well conceived and inspired. The casting of Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas) was as true find considering the depth and pain the character Ender must go through and Butterfield knocks it out of the park. Unfortunately the rest of his child cast, including Oscar-nominee Hailey Steinfeld (True Grit) is subpar.
As far as the adults go, Harrison Ford leads them in one of the best performances he's had in years (sadly). His "friend or foe" persona is well performed and is one of the many components to making the real point of the film stand out...empathy. The film opens with a popular quote from the book that states "In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that moment I also love him" and it's in that line that the soul of the story exists. I won't spoil anything for you but what becomes a gut-wrenching turn for Ender is executed extremely well.
For its entire 28 years of existence, Ender's Game was considered unfilmable. Many have tried and failed and the story seemed to be sentenced to die in Hollywood "Development Hel"l but somehow Hood pulled it off. The movie isn't perfect but it's far greater than those of us who knew nothing about it expected and, more importantly, quenched the thirst of those like Matt and Shane who waited decades to see the battles in the pages come to life. I hope it inspires more people to read the book but it's good enough to make those who consider a movie an adequite substitute for the text walk away with a sense of what the real story is about and why it's important to take in; now, more than ever.
Gavin's Giveaway this week is Shrek The Musical on Blu-Ray & DVD - CLICK HERE to enter to win!