Battle Room

If I have one notable complaint about the film, it’s that it gets a little bit choppy at the end. The Mind Game is worked into the story earlier in the movie and it’s directly referenced at the end when Ender seeks out the Queen. But it does feel a bit wedged in, as if it needs to be explained to us because there wasn’t enough time to let it unfold a bit more organically. And there probably wasn’t, which is kind of ok, though I’m curious to know how people who haven’t read the book perceived the end of the movie. Having read the book, it makes sense to me, as Ender’s choice to save the last Queen is a demonstration of his compassion. And that compassion is already demonstrated throughout the movie through numerous moments when we see the softer side of Ender Wiggen, which usually come directly after a moment when we’ve seen his darkest side. So Ender's final scenes don’t come out of left field, but they do feel a little bit rushed, not so much as the ending of the movie, but as a fully satisfying conclusion of the story. With that said, I don't even know how they could have fixed that other than to include more Mind Game scenes in the story, which would've lengthened the movie, and might not be the best thing. The film's run-time is about perfect -- spoken as someone who often finds herself checking the time at around the two-hour mark.

What makes up for the above critique are the performances of the actors. Asa Butterfield is Ender Wiggin. He captures all of the things that make Ender such a fascinating character, from his tactical genius, his curiosity and of course, his compassion. Butterfield plays up every aspect of his character perfectly. Harrison Ford portrays Graff just as well, as the unsympathetic colonel who believes the ends justify the means in this war, even if it’s at the cost of a child’s innocence and sanity. Ben Kingsley's performance made me want more scenes with Mazer Rackham. Of course, introducing him sooner into the story would have probably been too drastic of an alteration. As a fan of Moises Arias from The Middle and Kings of Summer, I loved him as Bonzo. He’s perfectly unlikable. Viola Davis plays the sympathetic Gwen Anderson beautifully, not only in the way she seems to want to reach out to Ender when he’s in pain, but also in the way she serves as a contrast to Graff’s less empathetic approach to handling Ender. Anderson’s presence and occasional objections do well to show us that Graff’s lack of empathy is a choice and a manipulation strategy.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Petra well, which is a good thing, as her role seems to have been enhanced a bit, unfortunately at the cost of some of the other characters at Battle School. I would’ve liked more Bean, Dink, Alai and even Bernard. They’re all there, they’re all named, and they all get just enough screen time not to blend in with the rest of the Battle School kids, but Petra is clearly Ender’s closest friend at Battle School in the film. Abigail Breslin does just as well as Valentine, another female in Ender’s life looking to offer him compassion and comfort as he attempts to withstand the pressures of Battle and Command school.

This cast works, and that’s one of the reasons the film does too. Beyond that, great visual effects and an obvious understanding of the story are what allow Ender’s Game to rise above lesser successful adaptations of great novels. With all of the flashy visual effects and thrilling moments, the story could’ve easily gotten lost, and it doesn’t. Changes aside, the movie stays the course right to the end, never losing sight of the book’s message or of who Ender Wiggin is at his core, which is what makes the movie nearly as satisfying as the book and well worth the wait.

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