- Leeth named UAB School of Medicine assistant dean for strategic planning
- Coping with holiday grief
- New water plan saves big money
- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
- Engineering’s Ning wins ASTM International award
- Collat School of Business unveils sign at celebration
- Heudebert elected master by American College of Physicians
- Anti-aging strategies can improve more than looks
- On campus ‘blackout’ taken in stride
Solid Sci-Fi flick — Ender’s Game
Well, it’s roughly the 42nd sci-fi movie released this year, but at least it’s based on a modern classic of young adult literature. Originally released in 1985, the novel by Orson Scott Card has long been a staple of high school reading lists, and a huge favorite amongst teens for many a moon, thanks to its unique spin on the genre. Of course, it’s precisely this approach that has also been a source of controversy over the years as well, making it a bit like “The Hunger Games” of its day, in that the main protagonists are all kids, and those kids are actively being trained for combat that could very well end up putting their lives in jeopardy.
Thankfully, the movie adaptation doesn’t downplay the stakes, nor spare the victims that pay the ultimate price in the war at hand- or even the ones who fall on the losing end of the often harsh training, resulting in at least one shocking death before the war even begins. Not that, mind you, the film isn’t careful to point out the very real stakes, and the potential for genuine harm that could very well befall the young cadets. In short, this is every bit a life or death situation as “The Hunger Games,” only here the stakes are the very fate of Earth itself.
Perhaps needless to say, this is pretty heady stuff for a young adult novel, which is naturally why so many love it. What kid, especially boys of a certain age, doesn’t dream of being a hero that quite literally saves the world? It’s the whole reason superhero comics and more recently, superhero movies are so popular, as well as certain videogames. Only here, the main protagonists are actually kids themselves, not avatars that kids can put themselves in the guise of.
For that reason, some have derided the novel, and there is a certain degree of justification in that complaint, as the actions of the main character Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) are somewhat inherently forgiven in that he’s only doing what he’s been trained to do. In fact, in some cases, he doesn’t even intend to do the things he does entirely, but does them because he is being manipulated into them by the higher-ups, such as the gruff Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), who doesn’t hesitate to mold Ender into a hardened military man, despite his being a mere boy.
So, he kind of gets away scot-free with his actions, if you look at things a certain way. But that’s really selling the story and the character short, if you’re paying attention. Perhaps the movie version softens things a bit more than I remembered, but to me, Ender clearly feels remorse at certain key points of the narrative for his actions; whether he was manipulated or not, so one can hardly say he’s an emotionless killer.
As with Katniss Everdeen, Ender is a young man placed into an impossible and relentless position that has no choice most of the time to act the way he does, and in the cases where he does have one, he does it for the right reasons. I think kids get that, and they get the point the book and film is trying to make.
Now granted, this may all be a bit above some kids’ heads, so parents should probably use caution when deciding whether or not to take their children to see this. Despite the presence of Ford, this isn’t a flight of fancy like “Star Wars” or something of that nature. While that series certainly has its dark moments, the main people fighting the war on the Death Star weren’t kids, they were adults.
Kids do indeed end up dead here, and while not quite as violent as “The Hunger Games” on the whole, it still gets a bit intense at times. At the very least, I should think you’d want to talk it over with your kids afterwards, to make sure they get the points at hand, which may not be as clear to some, depending on their ages.
All of that said, when it comes to adults, this is admittedly a bit of puzzler. On the one hand, it does tackle some pretty deep subjects. On the other, it does come off like a glorified first-person shooter videogame at times. The effects are like a high-end videogame, to the point that when Ender actually plays a videogame in the movie, they have to dumb it down a bit so that it looks more like something from the 90’s than the sort of thing you’d get on any given gaming console these days. Actually, this may be the rare case where the film might have actually benefitted from 3D.
Still, it’s a reasonably solid movie if this sort of thing interests you, and the cast is excellent across the board. Ford gives one of his better performances in recent years as the hard-nosed Colonel, and Viola Davis does good work as his right-hand adviser. Butterfield left me a bit cold on the whole, but that’s the character, so you can’t really blame him for doing the job he was hired for, especially knowing that’s he’s capable of affecting work, as evidenced in “Hugo.”
On the other hand, Oscar nominees Abigail Breslin, as Ender’s sister; and Hailee Steinfeld as a fellow cadet that helps show Ender the ropes before becoming his own right-hand woman, both fare a bit better in the warmth department, serving as a nice antidote to Butterfield’s more aloof work.
As for the controversy surrounding author Card’s anti-gay remarks, well…it’s hard to say what’s the high road is there. On the one hand, it’s kind of nice knowing that we’ve come far enough in society that more people seemed to take offense to what he said enough to consider banning the movie, when mere years ago, this sort of thing would have hardly registered, much less have made an impact of any kind, so that’s actually a plus in my book.
On the other, if we had to like the actual people behind some of the best art out there, we’d all be in trouble because, let’s face it, some artists are real d-bags. I can think of a few right off the top of my head whose work I love but really wish would shut the ‘f’ up most of the time (cough, Kanye, cough). So, you know, if you must, don’t buy the book, I suppose, but the movie’s worth checking out, despite the source. It’s definitely one of the better sci-fi efforts this year, and that’s saying something, given how much of it there is out there lately. It’s no “Gravity,” but it earns a solid B+.