Commentary
5:00 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Movie Review: 'Ender's Game' A Bit Too Much About Teenage Boys For This Grown-Up

Asa Butterfield puts those teenage video game skills to use in 'Ender's Game'
Asa Butterfield puts those teenage video game skills to use in 'Ender's Game'
Credit rottentomatoes.com

Ender's Game is more doggedly devoted to mid-teenaged players of video games than anything I have seen.

Its heroic battles screen exactly like gigantic video games, and its adolescent protagonist is the only hope of survival of the human race, largely because of the natural gift of people his age for playing "Grand Theft Auto" and such instructional and inspirational material.

Harrison Ford sees and exploits the teenager's potential for military brilliance, though Viola Davis is a little bit concerned over the destruction of some finer human qualities by the training schedules.

If there have been movies more flattering to the pubertic male, I have been fortunate enough to escape them.

With a less terrific actor than Asa Butterfield-- formerly seen in Martin Scorsese's Hugo-- Ender's Game would be unendurable. But Butterfield's performance is so nuanced, without being called upon for a wide range, that you can only think, "This is a highly unusual young man."

All the usual cliches almost seem real, from the battering of the high school bully by our hero (who, unfortunately, says, "Remember what I do to people who try to beat me"), to that same old tiresome drill instructor, with Harrison Ford playing R. Lee Ermey of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket and dozens of lesser men-- a cliche beyond the reach of Butterfield and everything else.

Special effects are astonishing even if too many of them seem to be made of glass. But battle action is unclear and unconvincing.

Only toward the end is serious attention given to ideas that might have made Ender's Game a movie for grown-up people.