Twisted game too vi­cious for chil­dren

Kapi-Mana News - - ENTERTAINMENT -

ENDER’S GAME Star­ring: Har­ri­son Ford, Asa But­ter­field, Ben Kings­ley and Vi­ola Davis. Writ­ten and di­rected by Gavin Hood, based on the novel by Or­son Scott Card. Ad­ven­ture, science fic­tion. 1hr 54min. M for vi­o­lence.

It says some­thing scary about our pop- cul­ture pref­er­ences that more than one movie in cine­mas this year has fea­tured a story in which chil­dren are made to do the brutal dirty work of adults.

The lat­est, Ender’s Game, is based on Or­son Scott Card’s novel. It is a con­tender for most dis­turb­ing film of 2013, and fol­lows hard on the heels of dystopian sci- fi Hunger Games: Catch­ing Fire.

He’s a spec­tac­u­larly gifted child, our An­drew ‘‘ Ender’’ Wig­gins ( Asa But­ter­field), born and bred to serve in Earth’s in­ter- plan­e­tary de­fence force, which has gone into hy­per­drive af­ter an at­tempted in­va­sion of Earth by in­sect-like aliens, the Formics.

With gruff Colonel Graff ( Har­ri­son Ford) con­vinced Ender’s got the right stuff to com­mand a fleet of thou­sands in the com­ing war, the boy is tested.

He takes part in in­tense mind games and sim­u­lated space bat­tles that pit his tac­ti­cal ge­nius against his peers and some of Earth’s great­est fight­ers.

As Ender and his team run through their fi­nal ‘‘ sim­u­la­tion’’, the uber- child’s unique skills and will­ing­ness to risk all prove to be Earth’s most pow­er­ful and dev­as­tat­ing weapons.

With that in mind, and even though Ender’s Game stars a gag­gle of kid­dies, don’t be fooled into think­ing it’s a rol­lick­ing space ad­ven­ture for the fam­ily.

This is a film about geno- cide.

Ender is in­cul­cated to be­lieve that the means jus­tify the ends – the to­tal an­ni­hi­la­tion of your op­po­nent.

While the film sug­gests that kind of threat re­sponse is morally wrong, it is no less shock­ing to watch chil­dren prac­tise. The cadets’ train­ing in the ster­ile sur­rounds of a space sta­tion far above earth – re­moved from hu­man­ity – is cruel and brutal.

Imag­ine your ba­sic mil­i­tary boot camp sce­nario, com­plete with scream­ing staff sergeant, only re­place adult re­cruits with ter­ri­fied 10-year-olds.

The chil­dren take to it with gusto, des­per­ate for the praise of their abusers. It’s hard to watch with­out feel­ing uneasy.

Ender’s Game is such a cold, dis­pas­sion­ate film, the ker­nel of hope buried at the end hardly seems likely to take root.

Not

that

the

film

is es­pe­cially gory – you could hap­pily show it to a 10-yearold, but be pre­pared for some heavy-duty moral guid­ing in the af­ter­math.

The un­ease is com­pounded by an ex­cel­lent per­for­mance from Asa But­ter­field, who has all the hall­marks of a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

The adults are hardly less im­pres­sive, with Ford turn­ing into a gor­geously bluff and griz­zled old war- hound in Graff. It’s pos­si­bly the best he’s been in a long time.

De­spite this and how vis­ually and philo­soph­i­cally rich Ender’s Game is, it’s hard to rec­om­mend it.

The novel’s writer, Card, is a trou­bling fig­ure and his fic­tion is sim­i­larly trou­bling, dab­bling as it does in vast moral grey ar­eas the film strug­gles to en­com­pass.

But I can’t help wel­com­ing the dis­cus­sion such moral am­bi­gu­ity must surely raise.

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