‘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

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

National

Traps set after reports of giant snake on…

New Jersey animal control workers have set traps to snare a reported 20-foot-long serpent slithering through the waters of Lake Hopatcong.

Local

NYPD: Stroller carrying 2-year-old rolls onto Queens subway…

A 2-year-old girl in a stroller rolled onto subway tracks in Queens on Monday morning, police said.

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

Movies

Interview: Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different…

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

Music

Weezer releases first new song since 2010

Weezer releases "Back to the Shack," their first new song in almost six years.

Movies

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a different kind of genius…

The man known worldwide for his portrayal of London's eccentric private detective Sherlock Holmes is trading his Belstaff coat for tweed this fall. Benedict Cumberbatch…

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.