‘Ender’s Game’ doesn’t seem like the work of a homophobic fascist

Harrison Ford (right) tries to build Asa Butterfield into a warrior in "Ender's Game." Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr.
Harrison Ford (right) tries to mold Asa Butterfield into a warrior in “Ender’s Game.”
Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr.

‘Ender’s Game’
Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford
Rating: PG-13
3 (out of 5) Globes

For what it’s worth, “Ender’s Game” doesn’t seem like the work of a homophobic warmonger. Orson Scott Card has spent much of his life railing against homosexuality, and went gung ho for the Iraq War. But his most celebrated sci-fi novel is the work of someone if not anti-war then war-skeptic. Set during a “Starship Troopers”-esque future, when mankind tussles with belligerent bug-like aliens, it asks hard questions about how inhuman military leaders must be to succeed while wondering about war’s effectiveness. A movie adaptation would have been even more relevant while its creator was voting Bush II to a second term.

Now it’s a mere franchise-launcher, if an atypically smart one. Because it’s already horrific enough to imagine 6-year-olds training for war, as in the book, our titular hero winds up being played by 16-year-old Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”), who still looks about 12. Ender is a robotically calm brainiac, only with a creepy psychotic streak. This quality is noticed by the gruff Graff (Harrison Ford), a colonel who thinks he’s that overused sci-fi/fanasty concept, “the one,” who can be trained to lead forces against humanity’s foe.

The film adaptation streamlines and simplifies the novel. But it’s still smart, and the simplification actually makes it a bit more effective. Where the book periodically wanders away outside of the bubble that is Ender’s training, the movie stays deep inside it. Ender gets friends, but no close ones, and even what seems like a requisite love interest (“True Grit”’s Hailee Steinfeld) winds up strictly platonic. Though much of it plays as straight warrior-molding, with Ender’s fascist tendencies emboldened and exploited, both book and film have something sly up their sleeves. Like him, we never see the world he’s defending, or the enemy he’s being trained to obliterate. War remains abstract.

Director Gavin Hood — who went from the silly South African indie “Tsotsi” to the wretched, over-CGI’d first “Wolverine” solo film — doesn’t have the chops to give this much visual imagination. He steals the sleek, muted palettes and pounding-empowering score from “Tron Legacy” while whiffing the big character moments. And yet there’s a tight focus and a drive that’s refreshing in our ADD-addled IMAX blockbuster landscape while it nicely mirrors its antihero’s own predicament. He has blinders on, unaware he’s being grossly manipulated until the shocking revelatory twist reveals it’s too late.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Local

Video: Car crashes into Cambridge store, man arrested…

A Cambridge man was arrested on gun and drug charges after crashing his car into a Massachusetts Avenue storefront early Saturday morning.

Local

Body found believed to be missing Fitchburg boy…

The body of a child found off of a highway in Sterling last week is likely that of missing Fitchburg boy Jeremiah Oliver, authorities said.

Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

Television

'Orphan Black' recap: Episode 1, ‘Nature Under Constraint…

Welcome to your first Season 2 “Orphan Black” recap! Hopefully Tatiana Maslany can help Tatiana Maslany get through this, with the help of Tatiana Maslany,…

Books

Poems from prison: 'How to Survive a Bullet…

Celebrate National Poetry Month with, "'How to Survive a Bullet to the Heart."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.