Film Review: Ender’s Game

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Gavin Hood.

[Stars: 3/5]

When a war between humanity and aliens is about to erupt, who you gonna call to save the day? According to Ender’s Game, you phone a bunch of teenagers.

Ender’s Game is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card. It centres on a training academy in space, run by Colonel Hyrum Graff (Ford). Teens are transported to the academy to learn skills required for intergalactic warfare, and Graff is on the lookout for a commander bearing a similar strategic brain as Commander Mazer Rackham who defeated hostile alien race The Formics fifty years prior. With fears that the Formics might strike again, finding a new hero is urgent.

Grabbing Graff’s interest early-on is Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin (Butterfield). He is singled out as someone with brains, and having the right balance of compassion and violence, despite his youth. The teens encounter a number of training exercises – most of which involve floating around firing lasers in zero gravity – and Ender is moved through the ranks as he displays great intellect.

For me, what was most disappointing about Ender’s Game, was that it didn’t make sense.  Visually it was spectacular, with all the hallmarks of a futuristic space film (hello, yellow onesies), but the nonsensical training ground and the denouement in particular were all disappointing. There was a real lack of heart. Also, the alien threat is never made to feel all that serious, which undermined the purpose of the battle school.

Towards the end of the film is a scene where those being trained are engaging in battle of sorts while a room of experienced veterans do nothing but look on. All I could ask is ‘Why?’ A potential war is at hand and you’re willing to risk it all on the decisions of teenagers?

From that point things got worse, with a super silly final act.

Ender’s Game is about leadership. It calls young Ender to think for himself, step up, and take the lead. As he spends time at the academy he struggles with this weight on his shoulders, being alienated by his peers, and trying to be the leader that Graff calls him to be. When called to step up, Ender asks: ‘Do you think they’ll follow me?’

It’s a bold question, but one well worth asking. What is it about a leader that makes them worth following? Why should a team risk their lives to follow someone?

In the Bible we read of Jesus calling people to follow him. And we should be asking the question: what is it about Jesus that makes him worth following? Why should we entrust our lives to Jesus as not just our leader, but our Lord? Jesus says this in John 10:27-28:

‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.’

Here Jesus describes himself as the shepherd, and his followers as his sheep. Jesus is the ultimate leader because he sacrificed his life for ours on the cross. He is the good shepherd – loving, trustworthy, and a joy to follow.

Ender does end up proving himself to be someone worth following, but really – he’s still got a lot of growing up to do.

Ender’s Game is an entertaining sci-fi adventure that hits the marks visually but is let down by the script. I’m giving it three out of five stars.

Ender’s Game is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming on Quickflix.

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