Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

Heartless and Clinical

This is by far the most militaristic of the films putting children in harm’s way


Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Asa Butterfield,Harrison Ford,Viola Davis,Hailee Steinfeld,Abigail Breslin


Subscriber Only Stories
UPSC Key- November 30, 2022: Why you should read ‘Cyber-Attack’ or ‘China...Premium
Let’s just stop calling soil “dirt”Premium
Money to fight climate change: Are taxes the answer?Premium
Gujarat elections | Sitting MLA in the shade; it’s a Yogi Adityanath show...Premium

The world has fought off another alien attack,and 50 years later,mankind is planning a fightback. So far so good and so familiar. However,not so fast. This film based on a successful book by Orson Scott Card gets children to do the dirty job of annihilating another species. And it goes about it in the heartless,clinical and impersonal manner of a video game,which it actually is for three-fourths of its running time.

At the top of the heap is Ender Wiggin,the “unwanted third” offspring of his immigrant parents,who feels that being chosen into the programme of children fighting aliens is his only validation. Wiggin is played by Butterfield,of Hugo fame. He is taller since then but even more scrawny,and has the hungry and intense gaze of someone seeking a deeper truth,which this film only portends to be seeking.

Ender (presumably named so because his parents didn’t want more children) is picked out as special from the beginning by Colonel Graff (Ford) and Major Anderson (Davis). It has got something to do with how well he “strategises” — including,to Anderson’s horror,beat up a boy who had been bullying him to near pulp. Ender explains this as “preventing any future attacks” — to Graff’s appreciation,as much as Ford allows himself to show it. Signs such as these,indicating that Ender may have problems of his own,are brushed aside by Graff in his goal to create the perfect commander for his fleet.

Ender finds himself soon headed for “battle school”,a spaceship in outer space. Scenes of zero gravity are meant to impress,but Ender’s Game can’t get itself to lighten up enough to show genuine wonder or amusement. While there have been other films putting children in harm’s way,including more recently The Hunger Game,this is by far the most militaristic of them. While Anderson as the on-board psychologist expresses some concern about the morality of hiring children under 15 — “it used to be a war crime once” — Hood (Rendition) uses such dialogues as only fillers between sequences where kids train under strict discipline for war.

And they seem to be doing that all the time — “not even getting enough sleep”,as Ender complains. If simulations of alien war are tiring,if not to say pretty incomprehensible,a battle zone where the children float and fight is never allowed,again,to soar as much as it could have. Ender wins one battle building a formation that works as a choreographed dance in air,and that’s about the only time this film takes your breath away.


The other running theme is bullies,and clearly the children picked up for the programme have a disproportionately large number of them. Ender as Graff’s obvious favourite attracts them at every stage and survives them with equally dubious “strategising”.

Apart from Ford,Davis and Butterfield,the film has Steinfeld (True Grit) and Breslin to give its acting a punch. But like other parts of it,they too are a smokescreen trying to pretend Ender’s Game is about people. It isn’t.

First published on: 02-11-2013 at 12:04:11 am
Next Story

Jaya assets case: Special court gets new judge

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments