Ender's Game tries to cloak the obsession of playing video games into a larger obsession of what role should a military play in a world filled with a very real sense of imminent invasion paranoia. Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield of Hugo) is proclaimed by the defense powers that be the savior of the human race from the insect looking Formic horde because of his ability to not only play war simulations but master them with the out of the box strategy of a chess grandmaster.
Director Gavin Hood breaks Orson Scott Card's novel into a story of synthesizing the violent and peace loving part of humanity into not only an effective fighting weapon but a perfect person that knows when to give war and peace their proper due and moment. The tragedy of the novel and the movie is believing to much in the fear of the warmongers and not enough in the hope, faith and inherent goodness common to all higher intelligent beings whether human or extraterrestrial.
Card and Hood breaks the two parts into four characters.
The war mongering side has his bullying older brother (Jimmy Pinchak) and the commander of the war academy (Harrison Ford). The brother got drummed out because his violent temperament could not see strategies based on knowing his enemy. The commander is a bully because he knows the stakes are high, but he also knows when to show kindness and when to discipline and when to apply them to get the proper results. His heart and soul live in the blinders that encompass combat veterans and allow them to do their necessary and difficult job.
The peace loving side is embodied by his overly compassionate and empathetic sister aptly named Valentine (Abigail Breslin) and the touchy-feely Academy psychologist (Viola Davis) concerned with keeping the last of Ender's childhood intact and his psyche on an even moral balance. The Academy struggle between warrior and diplomat reflect Ender's inner struggle between bad brother and good sister. Ender's struggle and synthesis is both the failure and hope of mankind. It wouldn't be giving away too much to note that failure is needed to produce the sequels that will seek a diplomatic hope and a loving truth.
Ender's Game is thankfully free of both the political and moral posturing that has gotten Scott Card in trouble with elements of the left and politically correct-- and I am not a big fan of Scott Card's opinion on gay rights and the current POTUS. Scott Card sold the movie rights to Ender's Game a long time ago and will not see a penny of profits from it, so a boycott of the movie would not hurt Card financially one bit.
The movie is an honest encapsulation of what many forget is an anti-war, anti-military depiction of our future, written long before Card had a change of heart and decided to become the poster boy for the politically incorrect cause of the moment. If you want to hurt Scott Card, stop buying his books.
Ender's Game to use the smashup language of movie pitches is a Hunger Games set in a Hogswarthian dystopia with a slight Matrix religious allegory embedded in its spine. All were written after Ender's Game and in some cases may be slightly inspired by it. The movie works because Asa Butterfield as Ender balances off gangly awkwardness with a tough psychological and intellectual interior that slowly leaks out the revelations until his character is the full realization of the story's theme. Gavin Hood makes Ender's Game a sneak attack on the heart in between video game level jumps.
Ender's Game gets a B from me.