10/24/2013 17:00 | By Emma Roberts, editor, MSN Entertainment

Ender's Game: movie review

Should this game have ended before it had even started? Or is Ender’s Game worth a trip to the cinema?

Ender's Game - movie review

Release date: 25 October
Director: Gavin Hood
Starring: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Sir Ben Kingsley

What’s it about?
Set in the future after a savage alien attack kills millions of people on Earth, the military authorities hunt for a young soldier who can lead an army in space against the aliens and get rid of them once and for all.

What did we think?
Although it’s a little on the long side, Ender’s Game boasts just enough intergalactic action and intrigue to keep both sci-fi fans and casual cinema seekers amused.

When a movie is based on a book, it’s very rare that film-makers can keep everyone happy – after all, even Peter Jackson’s amazing Lord of the Rings trilogy faced harsh criticism from admirers of the original text. So, fans of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, which has long featured on the New York Times bestseller list, are bound to have a few issues with the big screen adaptation.

Having not read the book (although it’s now on our ever-growing must-read list) we were in the fortunate position of having nothing to compare the movie to – so, we went into the cinema with a blank sheet of expectations, yet we also left feeling rather blank too.

You see, while Ender’s Game is an entertaining enough movie, it’s more of an intense instant blockbuster fix than a film that lovingly lingers in your mind long after you leave the cinema.

Set in a dystopian future, the film follows Ender (Asa Butterfield) as he embarks on his personal quest to become a member of the international military force. After displaying promising qualities in his test results, he soon makes his way to Battle School and begins his training to destroy an alien race who invaded Earth (and then left) 50 years earlier.

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Asa does a brilliant job of bringing Ender to life. This is a character who is painfully torn between using violence to solve his problems and using a passive, more empathetic approach. His violent tendencies mean he soars through the ranks at Battle School, leading the audience to worry over whether he has left his conscience behind.

In Battle School we’re introduced to a number of interesting characters but, frustratingly, none of them feel quite developed enough, Ender being the only person with much depth. Even his budding love interest, Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), comes across as rather hollow, which is a shame considering Hailee is such a fantastic actress.

"The anti-gravity segments are particularly entertaining to behold"

Speaking of fantastic talent, the movie boasts an impressive cast with Hollywood heavyweights Sir Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford wading into the film as integral characters.

We enjoyed Harrison Ford’s portrayal as the battle-hungry Colonel Graff, but we were left feeling slightly baffled with Sir Ben Kingsley’s performance as the mysterious (and rather bland) war veteran Mazer. Again, if Ben had been given just a fraction more screen time, he could no doubt have shown more depth in his character.

Still, despite the characters feeling a little rough around the edges, Ender’s Game is bursting with energy and is packed full of impressive-looking action scenes, which are a delight for the eyes. The anti-gravity segments are particularly entertaining to behold, while the final battle is epic enough to keep you rooting for Ender and his gang of misfit soldiers.

But it’s (almost) not all about the action. The story has enough twists and turns woven throughout to keep things chugging along, and yet we couldn’t help but think the whole thing felt a little stretched out.

Three stars

Verdict: Ender’s Game makes an exciting enough cinema trip, but don’t expect this to be popping up in any sci-fi classic movie lists any time soon.

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