Release Date(s)February 11,2014
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
Ender’s Game, a first of its kind movie where VFX house Digital Domain is an active partner on the film’s production, didn’t exactly tear up the theaters last fall. Based on the Hugo-winning sci-fi classic novel, Ender’s Game tells the story of a boy who is groomed from birth to lead Humanity’s armies against an alien enemy that nearly annihilated the Earth sixty years earlier.
Ender’s Game is a conundrum. Every geek under the age of forty read the book as a kid. It’s one of those rare books that speaks directly to the alienated 14-year old, feels your pain and kicks you when you’re down, before showing you that “it gets better.” Writer-producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have a long history now of producing films like Transformers and Star Trek that hardcore fans hate. “A superficial versions of the collective memory,” as a friend once put it. I was hopeful about this film, given the intense love that Orci showed, that this time it might be different. The fact that I could ID every single scene I saw in the trailer made me excited. They cast the perfect Ender, the perfect Mazer, and tried their best to get the perfect Graff (Viggo Mortenson turned them down). But this simplified version of the story just doesn’t work without the connective tissue of the book. What we see on screen is a world that simply doesn’t feel “lived in” and authentic.
Ender certainly is a technically beautiful film, especially on Blu-ray Disc. The same kind of stark clean lines that are present in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot are at play here, with crisp, colors and deep blacks. The technical execution here is great, and nearly flawless. I just wish that what it was showing was more interesting. Likewise, the lossless audio track exhibits some great dimensionality. The holosonic sound field particularly noticeable into the Battle Room with all the lasers flying around. If you want to show off your system, you can do a lot worse than Ender’s Game, but I figure it won’t have a lot of staying power once some summer favorites hit Blu.
Watching Ender’s bonus material, you can’t help but feel that there’s a bunch of elephants in the room. The biggest one of course being author Orson Scott Card. His controversial statements against gay marriage pretty much ejected him from planned promotional activities, and pretty much any mention in the bonus material. Actor participation is barely there as well, and most of their stuff feels like it’s taken from the movie’s press tour instead of interviews specifically shot for the DVD. I mean sure, by now we expect Harrison Ford to look like a trapped animal when doing press, but Asa Butterfield was amazing on Hugo’s bonus material. So it’s too bad he wasn’t put more front and center on the bonus material here. I bet he and Orci would have been far way better pairing on the commentary than producer Gigi Pritzker. After watching what’s included on the disc, it just feels like somewhere along the line a lot of passionate people, that had great things in mind for the bonus material, got derailed and what they had in mind just didn’t happen. Too bad. Rounding out the package are about ten minutes of deleted odds and ends of the kind usually used to pad out a TV cut of a movie. There are a few lines here and there, but nothing that adds any additional understanding of the story.
The film version of Ender’s Game jumps from story bullet point to bullet point, but I can’t figure out how anyone who hasn’t read the book could really follow it or even care. If you’re unfamiliar with Ender’s Game, I can only recommend reading the book first. Otherwise I would suggest renting this disc before making a purchase for anything other than demo material.
- Jeff Kleist