Ender's Game

The young actor Asa Butterfield has Children of the Corn eyes, which are the most expressive part of his face. That's a good thing because as Ender Wiggin, the savant who is recruited to save Earth from marauding alien locust beings by leading a team of pubescent virtual warriors into battle, Butterfield has to look intently at three-dimensional game boy schematics, stare down rivals and superiors and weep for his lost innocence. Butterfield (who distinguished himself in both Martin Scorsese's Hugo and Mark Herman's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) is up to the challenge in this film which is written and directed by Gavin Hood, based on Orson Scott Card's popular novel. Hood avoids a common danger of having such a young cast, a woodiness and lack of depth due to lack of experience, by limiting the young cast's interactions and time on screen. Fourteen-year-olds are not typically great at long expository scenes and pages of dialogue, the exception being Hailee Steinfeld (outstanding in True Grit in 2010) as Ender's soul mate Petra. What exposition there is in the film is left to the grown ups -- Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Sir Ben Kingsley -- who are all fine if not terrific. There is a lot of cool stuff to look at in the film but despite the galactic backdrop and clashes the story feels familiar (Harry Potter?) and, ultimately, at least for me, unsatisfying.


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