ENDER’S GAME throws a lot of themes at the audience. Is war sometimes necessary? Are children forced to grow up too fast? Is any sacrifice too big for the greater good? Can adults be trusted? That seems to indicate the movie does not know what it is about or maybe that is an unfocused mess. That’s not necessarily the case here. But it dances on that edge. Asa Butterfield is Ender Wiggin. He is a the best hope Earth has for defeating the Formics, a race of ant-like creatures that invaded 50 years earlier and would have won if not for the heroic and brilliant efforts of one commander. War strategizing has now been turned over to children (mostly teens). They are the only ones whose minds are open enough to learning and adapting. Ender has extreme abilities that are spotted by Harrison Ford’s Colonel Graff and nurtured in a very Big Brother kind of way. Ender races through training and by the 90-minute mark he is ready to lead Earth’s forces. Along the way he is bullied and retaliates in very calculating ways that eventually end in extreme violence. He is not comfortable with this side of himself and tries to tamp it down as best he can. I can’t say much about how it all plays out for fear of spoiling it, but there several satisfying plot twists and one at the end that seems a complete left turn. The cast is capable and filled with great actors in addition to Butterfield and Ford (Viola Davis, Sir Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin to name a few). Gavin Hood does fairly well adapting a novel that the author Orson Scott Card once said was unadaptable. The problem here is that a lot of moral touchstones are approached and dealt with all too quickly. Sometimes you think, “wait, so that’s solved?.. ok, that was quick.” The effects are good, but nothing special or that hasn’t been seen on the big screen before. It looks good, but that’s fine because the movie isn’t about the effects. In the end you leave the theater thinking that ENDER’S GAME was good, but you also know that it won’t stick with you very long.–Alan Yudman

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