Review of Ender's Game

I wasn't going to bother you with this. Honestly I wasn't.

But then one of you asked me to write a review of Ender's Game, the film adaptation of one of my top three favorite books of all time.

And then another asked.

And another.

So here we go.

I've waited a long time for this movie to come out. I've followed the blogs, podcasts and Twitter feeds of the actors and producers. I made my pregnant wife sit through a late showing on opening night after standing on her feet for a twelve hour shift. There wasn't even time for dinner between when she got off work and when the movie started.

You could say my expectations were high for this film.

The fact that I didn't hate it and walk out of the theater griping is quite a feat in and of itself.

I rated it an 8 out of 10 on IMDB.

I'll start with the bad first, to get it out of the way. And yes, there may be spoilers. But that's one of the beautiful things about Ender's Game - I've read it a dozen times and loved it each time. The plot isn't interesting solely on the twists, like The Sixth Sense. Ender's Game is about the characters.

We don't see much of Peter, Ender's older brother. In the book, he is pivotal in shaping Ender's outlook on life. They try to touch on it later, but you don't really understand the depth of his impact on Ender.

The Battle School portion of the story is so rushed, you'll feel dizzy. In the original story, this is where Ender becomes a leader. He earns every promotion and he earns every friend. He slowly builds relationships and trust. His friends and followers are loyal to the end, because he is the sort of leader that's worth following. In the film, he shows up at Battle School and the kids just seem to start liking him after a bit. While this moves the story along quicker, it diminishes the impact of the climax of the story.

All that being said, I was still blown away.

The special effects are nothing short of astounding. They had to invent new ways of doing things in order to make this film. People have been talking lately about how great the null gravity scenes are in the movie Gravity. What they don't know is that Ender's Game was filmed first and they borrowed and then adapted their methods largely from Ender's Game (with permission).

The Battle Room has been changed from the original vision laid out in the book. This was a brilliant move. How it looks and works on screen is stunning.

The climactic scene was jaw-dropping.

But none of the effects diminished or eclipsed the brilliance of Asa Butterfield.

Ender is a tremendously difficult character to portray. It would be easy and understandable for any actor to make him come off as simply petulant, pouty or psychotic. While the movie cannot show us what's going on in Ender's head, the book does, and I can vouch for every nod, wince, smile, tear, etc. Asa Butterfield absolutely knocked this one out of the park. I cannot say enough about his performance.

The movie cut some things and tweaked what it had to, but added nothing. Every major event from the book is in the movie. Huge relief!

Having read the book kept me from getting confused during the movie. So, if you can, read the book first and then see the movie. They complement each other nicely. But if you can't, then enjoy a very fast but compelling movie.

I'd recommend following the PG-13 rating. There are some intense scenes and heavy stuff to think about. It's not merely eye candy.

Have you seen it? What did you think?