In the first of a new series, guff-film buff Diane Spencer sorts the cinematic wheat from the chaff, then throws all the wheat away. This month: the shrieking insectoid awfulness of 2013 sci-fi yawner Ender’s Game.
Warning: contains plot spoilers (although the plot was spoilt before I turned up).
An insectoid alien species has attacked Earth and wiped out most of the population. As a consequence the “yearlings” (read: child actors of indeterminate age) are trained in rocket science and air battle formations in order to create a huge army that will annihilate the insectoid threat once and for all, then deliver a pithy catchphrase. Ender’s Game is based on Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel, which received criticism for its justification of the protagonist’s violence. But all violence has been sucked from the film, as has any kind of epic feel to the adventure – it takes place inside a succession of featureless grey rooms (oh, how I love Star Trek: The Next Generation with its cream leather seats and thoughtful uplighting).
Harrison Ford plays some kind of commander who handpicks children to train at his special space camp, which appears to have a staff of four adults and an endless supply of name labels. Ford grumbles around the screen, tutting and banging on about young Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) being “The One” who will ultimately lead the Earthlings to victory. Ender has all the presence and heroic charm of the shrieking watery-eyed lollipop that plays him. His squeaky pubescence becomes particularly apparent during the “shower room scene”, in which another child comes to beat him up prison style; only this particular “child” appears to be played by a 40-year-old short man from New York.
Everything is slick and ridiculously clean looking, which doesn’t exactly help the idea of humans being a battle-scarred species. It’s all touch screen technology, iPads and little laser guns, but there is also a mind controlled “intuitive” battle simulation where moody, hormonal Ender can send thousands of troops smashing into a planet just by thinking about it.
One of the most obnoxious things about this appalling film is the sexism. There are precisely four female characters: Mum, Sister, Surrogate Space Mum (the psychotherapist) and Preteen Love Interest. Preteen Love Interest and Ender share some awkward long stares, which become even more awkward in HD because again she appears to be played, Olivia Newton-John-style, by a woman in her thirties. My biggest gripe is that Preteen Love Interest is the only female who makes it into the final bug showdown, most likely because she has, as Ender squeaks, “balls”. Actually, there is another female character – the insectoid queen, but I haven’t included her because she doesn’t have any lines and instead just stands there naked with her thorax out like the slut she is.
Most of Ender’s Game is played out in a giant zero-gravity quasar sphere where teams of kids have to shoot each other as they float about, with Harrison Ford smirking creepily at the window as their young bodies bob around at all angles. This game allows awkward touching between Preteen Love Interest/30-year-old woman and squeaky lollipop Ender, and is supposed to foreshadow the wholly predictable technique that Ender uses at the end of the film to annihilate the bug’s home world. But with the abysmal dialogue, laboured “messages” and risible casting I would’ve preferred it if the entire human race had landed on the bugs’ home world and smacked them to death with iPads.
Would I watch it again: Never
Would I recommend it to a friend: Never
Notes: Keep this film away from young girls; it sends out the message that if you want to succeed you have to keep telling everyone you have balls while making doe eyes.
Di’s Twitter Summary: Just endured the “film” Ender’s Game. Floating pubescent boys and one girl “with balls” commit genocide using iPads. #sobad
Diane Spencer is a standup comedian and writer. Her favourite genres include comedy, horror and sci-fi. Loves halloumi.