Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game had so much going for it, what with a very intelligent story that is intelligently told, along with extraordinary effects, and with deeply affecting characters. Thus, it comes close to having serious impact and is a very entertaining movie.

That said, it was hurried and didn’t spend enough time on Ender’s journey. Granted, there was no real way to do justice to the incredible source material, but there were enough missteps with the film that this fan is a little disappointed.

You will enjoy Ender’s Game if you liked:
Super 8
Inception
Hanna
The Hunger Games

Here’s a trailer:

And the deets:

Released November 1, 2013

Written by Gavin Hood, based on the novel by Orson Scott Card

Directed by Gavin Hood

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Jimmy Pinchak, Aramis Knight, and Nonso Anozie

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Ender’s Game takes place in a future Earth after the Formics, a race of war-like aliens, attacked and nearly destroyed humanity on Earth. A great hero beat them, but now humanity expects them to return. So they are training people from a very young age to be soldiers in the battle against these critters. Indeed, they are training children.

Ender (Butterfield) is one of these. He is insanely smart and has grown up with his brother, Peter (Pinchak) being constantly cruel to him, and with his sister Valentine (Breslin) being a source of love and friendship.

But Ender is now off to Battle School, where Graff (Ford) believes Ender will flourish. Graff is certain that Ender is the answer. Anderson (Davis) thinks Graff is too hard on Ender. Rackham (Kingsley) is the hero who beat the Formics last time.

Ender pulls together a team, notably including Petra (Steinfeld) and Bean (Knight). These are all incredibly gifted young people and Ender proves their mettle by leading them to great victories in Battle School, particularly in the battle room.

The story of Ender’s training hurtles along until we start seeing that Ender is having odd experiences with dreams and visions that involve Formics. When the climax of the film happens, this connection he’s been having helps him prepare to be in the next movie.

Critique

The filmmakers, particularly Gavin Hood, were in far too much of a hurry to capture the crucial scenes of the book and translate them to celluloid. This resulted in a movie that moves far too fast for us to really ever be in Ender’s head. We also don’t have nearly enough time with the battle room, the single coolest thing about the film. This also means that the arc that Ender goes through doesn’t have nearly the impact it needs to have.

So if the movie had slowed down a little, it would have been better.

Lost in the movie is the sub-plot where Peter and Valentine Wiggin essentially scheme to run the Earth’s political discussion. Also lost is the heart and soul.

Which means we have great, beautiful, awesome scenes that are connected by a character we don’t have time to come care deeply about.

Ender’s Game is still entertaining and at times all kinds of fun. It’s also visually wonderful. The joy in the battle room sequences makes us ache for more and the rest of the movie just doesn’t make up for that lack.

Sigh.

At least the performances are good, with standout work done by Steinfeld and Ford.

Content warnings: Some violence and some salty language.

Writing: 4          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 3.5

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Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 is the film we have been waiting for since Dark Knight Rises. It has a phenomenally powerful heroic arc for many of its characters, pits our hero against a terrifying enemy, gives us a nice love story, and does it all without wallowing in darkness and a fairly nihilistic worldview. And it is explosively funny at perfect moments.

As of its release, Iron Man 3 is the best movie of 2013.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released May 3, 2013

Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black, based on the comic by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby

Directed by Shane Black 

Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, and Ty Simpkins

Rated: PG-13

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Story

Iron Man 3 comes chronologically after Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. In this story, the events from The Avengers are referred to as ‘New York’ from the year before. This is important, because the heroic efforts Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) made in that conflict have left their mark on him. He is torn up and is having trouble sleeping. 

But he’s been working obsessively with his suits, making them able to move remotely and even be controlled by Jarvis (Bettany) so they can be nearly autonomous. At the same time, Rhodey (Cheadle) is using the suit the US Government appropriated, which is now called the Iron Patriot. Rhodey and Tony are still friends. Pepper (Paltrow) is very worried about Tony. He is unable to stay in bed, is acting a little too manic, and their relationship is suffering. She wishes he could have a life without the suits.

Meanwhile, there is a terrorist called the Mandarin (Kingsley) who is incredibly well outfitted for mass destruction. He is bombing all kinds of places and appears to want to knock the world’s systems completely off balance. But there’s also another bad guy named Aldrich Killian (Pearce) who is a brilliant inventor and developer and who seems to have a personal bone to pick with Tony Stark. And this guy is not entirely human.

When Tony’s home and lab are completely destroyed, Stark is left with his one final suit, panic attacks, and a pushy kid (Simpkins) who might be able to help him save the world. The Mandarin’s plans move forward, putting countless lives in danger, and Killian’s plans do much the same. Now Tony has to somehow rescue his relationship, the president, and the entire world from a madman who is bent on molding the world after his own vision.

Leading to a visually stunning showdown that does all kinds of crazy things that will come as a surprise to most viewers.

Critique

There’s not much bad to say about this film. It starts with a script that knows how to throw punches at our hero, leaving him on his back, nearly dead, in the snow. The script allows characters to explore relationships and to inhabit their emotional space. This consists of allowing scenes to continue for enough time to let us see the character do natural, often heroic things.

The script also allows for all kinds of humor at surprising and perfect times. Most of that humor is clever dialogue, but it’s so effective because of its timing. Furthermore, the bad guys are ruthless and smart and incredibly dangerous. They win every encounter because they’re better prepared than anyone else.

As expected, the acting is excellent. This is a surprising role for Ben Kingsley, but the guy really gets it done. Guy Pearce is effectively smarmy and villainous, as are the sidekicks. The role of Stark was of course written for Robert Downey Jr, but there is more asked of him here. He has to move beyond clever snark to real self exploration, while staying true to himself. He does that well. Gwyneth Paltrow is as Gwyneth as ever, but the presence and acting of Rebecca Hall offsets the Gwyneth factor nicely.

The effects are remarkable. Seamless, creative, stunning, and altogether wonderful.

You’re going to love this movie.

Content warnings: Lots of superhero violence and some at times creepy or difficult images. Nothing gory.

Writing: 5          Acting: 5          Overall: 5

Iron out the kinks in your relationships, man (or woman!), and share this review with your friends. Then drop a Hamilton and go see this flick.

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