Ender’s Game is about an intergalactic battle that’s waged by little kids. There’s really no way of getting around this last part. At the beginning of Orson Scott Card’s award-winning book, the hero, Ender Wiggin, is only six years old. He’s not much older by the novel’s end, but already he’s fighting for humanity’s survival. Can the new film adaptation make this compelling, or anything other than ridiculous?
We’ll have to wait until November 1 to find out, but in the meantime the new trailer, revealed this afternoon, is promising. First of all, the movie doesn’t seem to be condescending to kids—neither in its cast nor in its audience. “You really don’t see them as children, do you,” says the major played by the great Viola Davis toward the end of the trailer. She’s referring to Colonel Hyrum Graff, played by the increasingly grumbly Harrison Ford, but she could just as well be referring to the film’s approach. When Ender declares, “I will do everything I can to win this war,” he delivers the line in all seriousness, and, as a bit of fantasy, it works.
It doesn’t hurt that the actors cast to play the child commanders-in-training are also quite a bit older than the characters in the book. English actor Asa Butterfield, who plays Ender (and who previously starred in movies like The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo), is now 16 years old, and has already shown himself to be among the stronger young actors of his generation. (Fans may shudder to remember that the role was originally associated with Star Wars Episode 1’s Jake Lloyd.) Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld, who play Ender’s sister and classmate, respectively, are about the same age, and both have already been nominated for Oscars. They’re not the only Oscar nominees in the cast, which also includes Ben Kingsley (Mazer Rackham), in addition to nominees Davis and Ford.
The effects, too, are impressive, and look as convincing here as anything out of Tron: Legacy or Oblivion, whose angular designs they resemble. Hopefully director Gavin Hood (who may have bombed with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but also directed the Oscar-nominated foreign film Tsotsi) will also take some time to focus on the finer points of strategy that made the book so compelling. And hopefully the marketers will be a bit more subtle about the book’s final plot twist: The trailer nearly gives it away, but if you haven’t read the book, you probably won’t realize it.
Previously from the Trailer Critic
Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium
Only God Forgives
Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha
Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited
The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis
Man of Steel
Star Trek Into Darkness
World War Z
The Lone Ranger
The Great Gatsby