Reason for the Rating: Some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.
Plot Summary: One young boy is recruited to lead an army against an alien enemy.
PopFam Recommends: This film is worth checking out with your kids, but I’d recommend reading the book before watching the movie.
Ender’s Game is one of my all time favorite books, but I didn’t have high expectations going into the movie. Too many times I’ve been disappointed by movies of books I’ve loved, but this one was a pleasant surprise. It won’t be one of my top favorite movies, but it stayed pretty close to the book and it was well played out.
Based on Orson Scott Card's classic sci-fi novel of the same name, Ender’s Game plunges the viewer into a future world ruled by technology—and a few bullies. Plus there’s the constant threat of global annihilation at the hands...um claws... of bug-like alien invaders from a distant galaxy.
In this world, children are the warriors of choice for the International Military, and the means they use is video games. Ender Wiggin is a child-recruit in this effort, and quickly shows himself to be a brilliant strategist, but also a tortured soul who must find peace within before he can wage war without.
One of my biggest concerns going into Ender’s Game was whether or not Asa Butterfield would be convincing as Ender Wiggin. But I didn’t need to worry. Butterfield’s portrayal of the complex mind of Ender was very good. My other main concern was how closely the creators would stick to the original story. Here my worries did have some foundation. The overall plotline and actual events stay the same, but there were many small changes here and that constantly had me thinking “that’s not the way it should’ve happened.” But when the end credits rolled, I was largely able to put those aside and appreciate that the movie was well paced and thought out.
I think the real problem of this movie would come for someone who has never read the book. Little connectors and explanations are left out that could help those unfamiliar with the universe of Ender’s Game better understand what is going on. I even heard someone saying “I didn’t really understand it all,” and his friend say “You’d get it if you had read the book!” as I left the movie theater. While it is not critical for all viewers to read the book before watching, it certainly helps to tie everything together.
On the Blu-ray edition, the big attraction in the special features section is a pretty cool, 8-part "making of" featurette that's all behind-the-scenes, nerdy fun stuff. Family members who are diehard Ender fans, or just fans of moviemaking in general, will like spending time here. Beyond that, the rest of the special features are spare and forgettable, with a few audio commentaries, some deleted scenes, and a short special effects featurette.
Overall, while it's probably true that Ender’s Game wasn't everything that it could have been, it is still a fun movie, well done, and worth a watch. Parents should be aware that there are a few frightening or intense scenes in the movie (including a gory and spooky, fantasy-style video game), but nothing more than what you'd find in the majority of similar sci-fi films.
I'd recommend this movie for families with younger teenagers, ages 12 and up.
Let’s Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• How do you think you would’ve handled being singled out like Ender was?
• Do you think Ender would’ve acted differently if he knew the truth about the game he was playing?
• What makes Ender a good leader? Do you know people who have similar qualities?
Tags: Orson Scott Card,Ender,Ender's Game,Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford,Hailee Stanfield,Viola Davis,Abigail Breslin,Ben Kingsley,Gavin Hood
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