“Ender’s Game” took me back to a time when I used to play with action figures, imagining elaborate combat scenarios and making them come alive with “pew, pew, pew” sound effects. Growing up in the ’80s, films such as “Flight of the Navigator,” “Wargames” and “Cloak and Dagger” allowed my playtime fantasies to come alive on the big screen with kids like me in starring roles. But the film I thought about most while watching “Ender’s Game” was “The Last Starfighter,” one of my favorite films of that era.
Both films share a similar premise. A young boy is recruited to be trained to combat alien forces. The only difference is that “Ender’s Game” replaces the innocence and purity of “The Last Starfighter” with contemporary gravitas of today’s generation. Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) plays Ender, but unlike the hero in “The Last Starfighter,” Ender isn’t a bright-eyed and innocent kid who just happens to be great at video games. He’s been training in combat school from a young age, aspiring to be recruited to real combat training, where his older sister and brother fell short. He knows alien enemies can attack Earth any time, and he fights for a chance to be one of the young leaders in a future attack against them.
Harrison Ford plays Colonel Graff, who recognizes Ender’s talents and trains him relentlessly to ensure he’s combat ready. It was refreshing to see Ford in a commanding role once again, and it seemed plausible that this is what Han Solo would be doing after retiring from smuggling.
“Ender’s Game” also features amazing visual effects, some of the most imaginative and intricate I’ve seen this year. From the training scenarios to combat scenes, the film puts the audience in the middle of the action and actually sets you there in space, rather than in a theater watching space scenes. Those special effects add to the powerful impact of the film and despite its dark story, “Ender’s Game” is fun, adventure-filled, suspenseful and entertaining.
I can already imagine boys of all ages rushing to see “Ender’s Game” for repeat viewings. This is the type of fantasy film young sci-fi fans are wired to love. Throw in a trip for ice cream after, and I bet many kids would proclaim it the best day ever.
“Ender’s Game,” 114 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters tomorrow.