Twisted game too vicious for children
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.
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.