Twenty-eight years after its publication, Orson Scott Card's sci-fi novel "Ender's Game" finally launches onto big screens Friday (November 1), with 16-year-old "Hugo" star Asa Butterfield at the helm as the titular space fighter.
Directed by Gavin Hood and co-starring Harrison Ford and Viola Davis, the film follows Ender's journey from wide-eyed recruit to command leader, as humans wage a war against an alien race known as Formics.
Before you land in a theater seat, check out what the critics had to say about "Ender's Game."
"Based on the 1985 science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card, the movie envisions a future world ruled by monolithic militaristic government that trains children to fight large insect-like extraterrestrials called Formics or buggers. When the story opens, Ender (Asa Butterfield) thinks he's just another runt with a monitor jammed in his neck that allows the authorities, personified by Colonel Graff who, because he's played by Harrison Ford, should have been called Gruff, and a psychologist, Major Anderson (Viola Davis), to observe each potential warrior's words, moods and tears. Graff believes that Ender may be the child to lead them all, a sermon he preaches as Ender is tested first on Earth and then in the outer space battle school where the movie gets its game on." — Manohla Dargis, New York Times
"By all appearances, this should be an excellent sci-fi adventure. But Hood keeps such a steady, unvaried pace that the revelations of the final act — which should be HUGE — have the same dramatic heft as everything else. And when everything weighs the same, nothing weighs anything." — Eric D. Snider, Film.com
"Though Hood significantly compresses the source novel's epilogue and simplifies its background politicking and violence, he retains the central idea that makes Card's book so troublesome. Ender is portrayed as a tragic superman who possesses immense destructive power, but can never be held accountable for his actions. He is a victim-hero who can do evil, but remains morally unblemished because of his good intentions — a characterization that appeals to the closet fascist lurking inside every angry teenage boy. — Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, A.V. Club
"The special effects are fine, but Ender's Game has the bad luck to be coming on the heels of 'Gravity.' In the book, the scenes of combat in the Battle Room — featuring as many as 30 kids streaking through zero-gravity, executing formations and maneuvers on the fly — seemed to be unfilmable. While Hood and his CG wizards do a more than decent job, anyone who's seen Alfonso Cuaron's wizardry will have seen it done far, far better." — Marc Bernardin, The Hollywood Reporter
The Final Word
"An anti-bullying allegory writ on the largest possible scale, "Ender's Game" frames an interstellar battle between mankind and pushy ant-like aliens, called Formics, in which Earth's fate hinges on a tiny group of military cadets, most of whom haven't even hit puberty yet. At face value, the film presents an electrifying star-wars scenario — that rare case where an epic space battle transpires entirely within the span of two hours — while at the same time managing to deliver a higher pedagogical message about tolerance, empathy and coping under pressure. Against considerable odds, this risky-sounding Orson Scott Card adaptation actually works, as director Gavin Hood pulls off the sort of teen-targeted franchise starter Summit was hoping for." — Peter Debruge, Variety