PlotThe plot is very generic. In essence, this film is a quasi-remake of Starship Troopers if it were done with the ideological sensibilities of Real Genius. What you have is Ender, a bright young kid who thinks strategically. So strategically in fact that he’s recruited to a military-run school that will teach him strategy through a series of games. Harrison Ford runs the school and recruited Ender personally. The reason for the school is that fifty years prior, the insects from Starship Troopers attacked the Earth. The Earthers were able to defeat them, but they learned they could only win with superior strategy... shocking! So they have built their military around finding people with strategic gifts, and they have decided that kids are best at it. Ergo, they are training kids to lead the drone fleet against the bugs.
Anyways, as this is ongoing, the adults moralize about using kids to fight this war. They are using kids because kids have more creative minds. Eventually, Ender gets sent to lead the fleet and he and the other kids seem genuinely upset to learn that they may actually be involved in killing the enemy... even though they’ve been attending a school that teaches them combat and promises them that if they graduate, they will be made the commanders of the space fleet. Wow! Who could have seen that coming? In the end, Ender is told to play one final game. But is there something we don’t know about this game? Yeah, you can guess how that will turn out.
BlechI have three problems with this film. Let’s address them in order they arise.
First... There isn’t a moment of this film that feels original. The training scenes are similar in theme and style to the training in Starship Troopers. The young soldiers being shocked to learn they are helping the military comes from Real Genius. The hero learning the truth in his dreams feels stolen from Final Fantasy: Spirits Within. And the things the film focuses on, like showing us zero-gravity training, are things every sci-fi movie does. Beyond that, the film is packed with tropes like the big bully white kid who needs to be brought down by the hero, the girl who falls for the nerd and must break away from the insecure male who dominates her, the hard-ass sergeant who tells us when Ender is finally approved as a hero, etc. Seen it all before... many times.
Third... Finally, we come to the politics. Look, war is terrible. Anyone who’s ever been involved and seen the devastation, the death, the destroyed lives can tell you that. But that doesn’t mean that the human race is opposed to war in all circumstances. This is the problem with liberalism and Hollywood. They play at being pacifists and they act like no decent person could possibly want to fight a war or that no sane person could go through war and kill others without becoming insane. That’s bullship.
For one thing, whether or not war is good or bad depends on whether or not the war is wrong. If you are fighting to defend your country from an invader set to kill and destroy all of you, then war is a great thing. If you are trying to save six million Jews and free another 100 million Europeans from Hitler, then war is a great thing. Free the slaves? Good thing. Stop a genocide? Good thing. Hollywood forgets this. In Ender’s Game, the enemy wants to wipe out humanity. In those circumstances, people will enthusiastically sign up to fight this war. This is a good war with a clear mission. People don’t whine and moralize about whether or not wars like that are right or moral. So instantly, the film feels like it is establishing a false moral framework.
This image that soldiers are deeply conflicted souls unwilling to kill an enemy unless tricked into it by their commanders and that, once they kill someone, they all break down and become pacifists just flies in the face of the human condition. And it simply strains credibility that a child like Ender, who opens the film by aggressively trying to main and destroy a bully so the bully will be too scared to try again in the future will be so averse to killing the enemy in a war for which he’s voluntarily training.
And let me add another layer to this stupidity: the enemy isn’t even human! They are bugs. Think about the last time you swatted a fly or stepped on a spider. Did you need counseling? Did you agonize for days about whether or not you would be able to kill said fly or spider? This film would have you believe that somehow you would agonize if faced with much larger, much more violent spiders bent on your destruction. That’s laughably stupid.
But then the film never offers a pacifist solution to the war. In other words, at no point does the film show how a war with murderous alien bugs can be resolved short of killing the bugs before they kill us. Instead, the characters solve the film by fighting and killing all the bugs and then weeping that they should have been pacifists. This is hypocritical bullshit.
This is a stale and stupid message that I’m sick of seeing in modern science fiction. It’s unreal because it flies in the face of human nature which hasn’t changed in thousands of years. It’s annoyingly hypocritical to be blasted by a false ideology that doesn’t have the courage to show how that ideology is supposed to work, and then smears the people who keep the believers of this cowardly philosophy safe. Even more hypocritically, the people who are pushing this crap idea of pacifism then exploit violent action scenes to make their hero and sell their film to audiences. Hypocrites.
You know, this isn’t the worst film I’ve seen, but it is entirely derivative and it’s very tiring. I would not have missed it if I never saw it.