Ender's Game begins fifty years on since Earth thwarted an alien invasion, thanks to a now-legendary pilot who sacrificed himself Independence Day style by flying his plane into the alien mothership. To combat future attacks, children are trained from a young age to command Earth's space fleets and one boy, Ender Wiggin (Butterfield), could be the one who has the promise to quash any possible assaults. Harrison Ford's hard-ass military commander certainly thinks so, but Viola Davis' softie reckons it will have a terrible toll on his psyche. Whisked away to Battle School, Ender is put through some gruelling tests for one so young…
Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch had many problems, its biggest being that because all of the action takes place in the mind of Emily Browning, there's nothing at stake. So what if people are slain by the giant thing? It's all in her head! Ditto with Ender's Game, an adaptation of Orson Scott Card's Hugo Award-winning novel - with all the action taking place in computer games, mock battles or simulations, the hero is in no danger at any time throughout the overlong 114 minutes. Colour me bored.
While the plot and dialogue is kept as simple as possible as to not to lose the twelve-year-old audience (and that is who this movie is for – very little here for anyone else) it's still as confusing as to how Ender goes from a naïve newbie to being saluted by his tough drill instructor without earning such a turnaround. It's not down to Butterfield who, out-frowning even Harrison Ford, says his lines and does what he's told, but the lack of charisma doesn't add the needed depth to the cold, robotic Ender.
And there aren't any cool visuals to make up for it either. Ender's Game is all interiors, all cramped, enclosed spaces. Hood, who can do grown up drama (Tsotsi, Rendition) but comes undone in children's movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), branches out a little during the mock battles in the Zero-G Battle Room, but it's hard to make out what's what in there.
Hood lays on the Right Wing, might-is-right stuff thick (the book itself is on the Marine Corps must read list) but not in a fun, tongue-in-cheek fashion of, say, Starship Troopers. What's slightly confusing is why he then undercuts all of that with a (spoiler free) liberal denouement.
With nothing at stake, a one-dimensional hero, and lifeless visuals, Ender's Game fails to entertain.