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Article by Teddy Durgin

Ender's Game Feels Like the Beginning of a Promising Franchise

Ender's Game" is one of those flicks that if I were a 12-year-old boy, I'd pretty much consider it the greatest movie ever made... er, until next week, of course, when I would see the next "Thor" or "Hunger Games" flicks. Here's a movie in which guys like Han Solo and Gandhi call on kids to save their aging behinds and the rest of the cosmos. It's like if the geezers from "Last Vegas" used the cast of "Twilight" as avatars for all of the raunchy, cool things they wish they could still do. So, why kids? Here's another reason why the 12-year-old Tedster would have flat-out loved this flick. They're great at video games! Yeah! In the future, how good you are at Zaxxon and Missile Command will decide the fate of humanity! Ooh, sorry. I'm dating myself there with Zaxxon and Missile Command. How 'bout Defender and Asteroids? Would you believe... Space Invaders? Oh, alright. StarCraft and BioShock. At any rate, with an alien invasion bearing down on the planet, Harrison Ford's "Colonel Graff" and the International Military turn to brilliant, little hotshot Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield of "Hugo"). Ender is recruited to attend the orbiting Battle School to train as the eventual commander of our defense force. Also in the mix is Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit." And, yes Ben Kingsley is front and center as the alien Mazer Rackham (one of the better movie make-up jobs I've seen this year). OK, so what does the 43-year-old me think of "Ender's Game?" It's actually a pretty darn good sci-fi flick, folks! Fans of the book will probably nitpick all that was left out. Fortunately, I don't read books so I can take the film on its own terms. Would it have been better had it had more novel-like attention to character and socio-political themes? Perhaps. But director Gavin Hood has streamlined the narrative here for the silver screen so that nothing drags and everything makes simple-sense. And I think the core relationships - especially between the title character and his beloved sister (Abigail Breslin of "Little Miss Sunshine") and intimidating brother (Jimmy Pinchak) - are spot-on. Hood is also quite the visual storyteller. This is indeed an FX-heavy piece, and the spectacle that he and his team deliver here is quite impressive. They not only keep audiences' eyeballs glued to the screen throughout the movie's 114-minute running time, they stick the proverbial landing with a pretty ballsy ending. Now, of course, would I like to have seen Captain Solo and the Mahatma out there leading the charge against the E.T.s? Of course. But I applaud Ford and Kingsley for taking supporting roles here in hopes of launching a new and vital big-screen franchise. This is the third time this year that Ford, in particular, has lent his gravitas and star power to prop up younger-skewing films. I think he deserves serious Oscar consideration for his turn as Branch Rickey in "42," shepherding young Jackie Robinson's turbulent jump to the Majors (there's no sense in continuing to beat the dead horse that is "Paranoia"). Here, as Graff, he's quite good as the elder military leader asking children to do what was once the duty and responsibility of men. Movies have come a long way since Ford was one of those men fighting on the side of the Rebel Alliance in films with spaceships slapped together with model toy parts and planets painted on matte glass. This is a movie for a new generation, one that I would welcome an "Ender Strikes Back" in a couple years' time provided it makes its coin.

"Ender's Game" is rated PG-13.

 

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