In the future, earth has a threat that has once been defeated at great cost. Called by the civilians “The Buggers”, an Alien race invaded earth, and was only successfully repelled by the sacrifice of one man. Though the battle was won, the war was not over. The Buggers retreated back to their home planet to re-build their army, and to someday, invade earth again.
Thus the International Fleet (IF) was created to train and develop the best soldiers in the universe to repel the future invasion. Children, drafted from homes, were earth’s new hope, and only one could lead them all. Colonel Graff has his eyes on one boy who would lead the army, and deliver earth from this eminent threat. That boy, is Ender Wiggin.
Things I Liked
The thing to note first is the character of Ender himself. Ender initially makes choices based on what is best for himself and his protection. As he grows throughout the harsh training put on him, he develops a “Just” sense of leadership based on reason- instead of strength and fear. We see him develop teams, and then command simulations, all with the calm confidence of a true leader. He asked for ideas from those he commands, and listens to those who care. He also is sensitive to those struggling with inner conflicts, and helps when they want it.
Colonel Graff is a man to be respected, yet questioned. Played by the legendary “Harrison Ford”, the Colonel is a war scarred man who’s life desire and duty is to protect earth. He does this be selecting candidates to be commanders. Ender is the best he has ever seen, and because of this, he takes on a fatherly role with Ender. He consuls him in a limited sense, and orders him when necessary. He is honest, yet harsh. Because of this Ender listens to him, but does not trust him. A relationship we see the fruit of near the end of the film.
Ender’s sister, Valentine, is the encourager of Ender’s life. She is warm, sympathetic, caring, and loving to the fullest. When everyone else rejects Ender for various reasons, she is always there to support and care for him.
Several cadets in Battle School befriend Ender, who in turn becomes fast friends with those cadets. In this way, they develop a team which quickly climbs to the top of the charts through teamwork, trust, and leadership. When the arena is stacked against them, they use ingenuity and planning together to win the battle regardless. It was great to view such excellent teamwork in such an inhospitable school.
Things I Didn’t Like
Ender beats up two boys, quite soundly, who intended to cause him harm. he does so with his training and a club, then shoves another into a shower- which renders him completely immobilized. Both attacks result in the boys going to the emergency room. Ender is also bullied by getting punched in the gut, shoved around, and choked by his brother to get proved a point. This bullying is planted by the IF to learn more about Ender’s character.
One boy calls another an “A–” and a few references to men’s body parts. Insults about a boy’s mother fly.
In a “Neural Simulation” Ender controls himself in a video game. At one point he dies in cups of poison, he kills a giant, and kills a snake. These are some of the most intense moments in the film, as we see Ender make conscious decisions to kill things he grows frustrated with.
In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. And then, in that very moment when I love them. I destroy them. I make it impossible for them to ever hurt me again. I grind them and grind them until they don’t exist. ~Ender Wiggin~
Ender’s Game is an introspective film which ultimately faces two extremes of humanity. There is one side, represented by Ender’s Sister- Valentine. The side of compassion, empathy, and love. Then there is the other side, represented by Ender’s brother- Peter. The side of aggression, destruction, and fear. This film displays Ender’s journey in finding balance between these two extremes and implementing them as a solider. It is a fascinating concept to be sure, and can dig quite deep in the film about the benefits and harms of each.
We find Ender leaning toward one extreme rather than the other. He discovers this leaning not through convincing of the colonel, the taunting of the boys, or the pressures of his duty. Rather, he discovers it through embracing the extreme he eventually rejects. It crushes him in way he could not even fathom, and he learns that “Kill or be killed” is not always the best path to follow.
The characters and friendships in this film are sound, the disagreeable content bare, and the lessons taught are many. This leaves us with an rather clean film centered around one boy’s quest to deal with his inner moral conflict. Which one wins in the end? I’ll tell you- Both. But not in any way you expect, nor in the standard happy ending usually delivered.
In short, this movie is one worth remembering, musing upon, and learning from. The game may not always be fair, easy, or commendable. But in the words of Ender himself- It isn’t the winning that matters…
“The way we win is what matters.”