Ender's Game (2013)
Directed by Gavin Hood
"The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth." -imdb
If you have watched Television, been on public transport, or just generally been outside, you will have probably been slapped in the face with adverts for this film. There were adverts for this thing at London Comic Con back in May, that's how long they've been trying to build hype. And in my experience, films with this much spectacle tend to be pants. The redeeming factor to the anticipation of this film is that I know several people that have been raving on about the book it's based on for god-knows-how-long (however, I have also heard people rave on about how the author is a homophobic campaigner, so take your pick). So really, this film had the potential to be stupendously amazing, or absolute rubbish, (and I had a strong feeling it would be the latter).
The opening was the type of opening you would expect; flashback of previous battles with the aliens, including a heroic sacrifice by an individual pilot, resulting in the downfall of the alien species. Of course there were undertones of "they will be back", to brace the audience for what was to come. They really hammered in this sequence, and it was shown several times throughout the course of the film. We got a full face full of that sequence, but apart from that, little to no background on anything else. The setting was clearly a futuristic society, but the audience were hardly introduced to it. It wasn't entirely negative though, the CGI was pretty damn impressive, which is important for impact in the opening shot of a film and something filmmakers often seem to forget (Baz Luhrmann, I'm looking at you.)
You are introduced to Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a stroppy, pubescent child prodigy. The underdog of the academy. Clearly the brightest and always outsmarting the bullies that he was constantly encountering; which left me to wonder why an academy of the world's brightest kids was full of meatheads and bullies.
The moral implications of sending a bunch of pre-teens to fight an alien race are kinda skimmed over. I don't have a problem with this as I am a die-hard Evangelion fan. However, the kids themselves did not at all seem phased by the fact that they've spent their whole lives training to wipe out an entire alien race. Maybe this is something they're desensitized to? Or this could have been an explanation to Ender's anger at the world, which ended up just being pointless, and leaving you not liking him very much.
I felt that the priorities of the plot were having a bit of a crisis. It was built up of a stream of successes for Ender, leaving no impact when he actually achieves something big. I mean there was the struggle of him and the bullies, but this is a contrived concept anyway, and you know he's going to outsmart them, because he's such a clever kid. The whole film is building up to this great battle with the aliens, but this is over without you even realising it. I was waiting to see some great alien action, but interestingly you never really get to see the aliens. This whole think about 'knowing how your enemy thinks' is lost. Again, something that was skimmed over, where more attention to it could have created a greater impact at the end of the film, which, may I add, was ludicrous and made no sense for anyone involved.
This film did not fall flat on it's face though. The visuals were incredible. I felt giddy at times. Good CGI is hard to come by these days, and this film was done very well. It was slick, with beautiful colours and lighting. The costumes are worth a mention too. The battle gear made the kids look like little Eva units and it made me very happy. It was very well designed, and I want want to wear it all. Saying that though, the white shirts and trousers could have gone amiss, as it's not the most flattering thing for young boys that haven't quite hit puberty yet, leaving them looking gangly and awkward.
So I expected this to either be amazing or terrible, and what was it? It was okay. It was certainly lacking in many areas, but I would be lying if I said it didn't have it's high points. I felt like I was not the target audience, and it would probably be enjoyed more by younger teenagers and children. This would probably explain the very flat characters and lackluster script. But even so, I felt a lot of it lacked clarity. Maybe if they hadn't spent half of the film playing lazer tag (and I still don't get why that was relevant to anything), and spent the time building up characters and the underlying relationships with the aliens, it might have been a bit more satisfying.