all flash, no subtance – Movie Critique: Ender’s Game

Ender's_Game_posterTitle: Ender’s Game
Genre: Sci-fi
Director: Gavin Wood
Studio(s): Chartoff Productions, Taleswapper ,OddLot Entertainment, K/O Paper Products, Digital Domain
Original Release: November 1, 2013
Running time: 114 minutes


 

Synopsis:

Fifty years prior, an alien species called the Formics attacks Earth, killing millions, but the invasion is ended by a commander (Mazer Rackham) who rams his ship into an alien vessel, stopping the rest of their fleet. In response to the attack, humanity trains gifted children to become commanders. Cadet Andrew “Ender” Wiggin draws the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff and Major Gwen Anderson.


 

Review:

When approaching this film, it is hard to avoid the burden that it bears. Both from being a very popular novel (which I shall critique & condemn later) & the issues that the author Orson Scott Card stirred up with his pathetic rants against homosexuality & civil rights. The irony & hypocrisy of which I shall address in the later book review, so for now we shall focus on this adaptation & the burden that it brings.

Yet this burden is not one I can be bothered to bear, so I shall speak what I believe.

& that is: like the book before it, this film is simple & it is BORING.

There is no other or simpler way to put it really.

The film plays it straight to the source, dazzles with shiny CGI & yet it is boring.

But before we get into all that, there is one thing that I must address.

WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH BEN KINGSLEY’S ACCENT IN THIS?!

I love him as an actor but that is honestly the worst New Zealand Maori accent I’ve ever heard!

Why couldn’t they have gotten Temuera Morrison for the role. He would’ve been perfect & he has the blood accent!

No matter. On with the review.

I spent 3 years as part of my under-graduate degree at university specialising in Novel to Film adaptation classes, so it is an area that I know better than most. There is no fault with writer/director Gavin Hood’s use of the source material -for the most part- yet like the novel (which was adapted from an ever evolving short story) it is bare & being bare makes it boring.

The main issue is the brevity with which the story is told & develops.

There is meant to be a deadline point, an urgent need to turn Ender Wiggin from a smart little boy into a military genius but you do not feel the urgency of this need or the force of the threat throughout the entire film. Weeks & months are jumped without notice, so you’d honestly think that the film was taking place over the course of a few days. The sudden shifts in the Battle School point this out, as Ender if pushed up the ranks so quickly that you don’t know why. This could have easily been solved by something as cliched as a date bottom up in one of the corners or a count down timer, so it boggles one as to why they didn’t decide to go with this as a way to clarify chronology.

The other issue within the Battle School is so much time is spent building up to these training battles, explaining the rules & showing us the arena but there are only 2 actually battles within the film. I know that CGI is expensive & they couldn’t keep doing battle scenes because would drag the film out & make it boring for the audience (no slamming of the sloped brows in this writing session). Yet the Battle School was meant to show that Ender is a tactical genius but all we have to go by is being told by Graff & others that Ender is smart & the last great hope for humanity & that’s pretty much it.

That whole point that underscore the entire film really.

Why the acting is for the most part passable, there is no time spent developing characters. Especially Ender’s antagonists within the Battle School, such as Bonzo. All we get from Bonzo is that he is short & because he is short, he is a bully who wants to be obeyed. Every scene he is in, his lack of height & physical unattractiveness (based upon white middle American perceptions) is overplayed yet does not bring in any sense of threat. Some quips are made before his untimely exit about his father yet no previous mention of his father being of rank in the military is mentioned prior to that point.

Much seems cut out from the film, which plays to sloppy continuity editing really.

Many themes & ideas go under developed or ignored.

Especially the titular game that Ender plays in his free time.

In the novel it is his psychological dependence as well as the Deus Ex Machina for the end.

Within the film, we only get the latter without much build up.

I don’t mind that they cut how the whole Peter & Valentine (Ender’s older siblings) subplot because that was all needless political stuff & has no baring at all over Ender’s story arc but if they weren’t going to emphasis Peter’s cruelness & Valentine’s kindness beyond a few token scenes, why not cut them out film entirely?

Well, that would change a lot of character of Ender, so better to have them briefly if not at all but they could’ve done a bit more to show the impact that they had on Ender & how he views the world. Especially his desperate need not to be a homicidal sociopath like Peter, who kills because he can. There needed to be far more embellishment of Ender’s empathy beyond Graff, again, stating that he has it.

So, quick formula to close the review: lack of tension + lack of development + shiny CGI + rushed plot = fairly boring film.

No other way around it, children, it’s a boring film & not really worth your time unless you adore the book (in which case: you’ll hate it & have other issues in your life anyway).

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Upcoming reviews & style update

Yes, been busy with the academia stuff but still writing out the reviews & articles whenever I can.

Will post them up whenever they are finished.

 

Am also fixing up the style in which I post stuff. My recent writing for The Conversation showed me some more possibilities with the use of links & the like, so will integrate them into future posts as well as go back to fix up old entries.

Will try to make more time for this space but too many other demands in life right now. Will be asking others to submit guest reviews & opinions over a range of nerdy topics, thus expanding a range of things. I’ll also be introducing reviews of webcomic & Western comics, including a few classic favourite storylines. I’ll also be looking at some more live action things, TV & movies.

Unfortunately not enough time to do everything that I want but will get there.

New review to follow.

Taking requests for reviews or opinion pieces

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Need some head space & was wondering if people had any requests for things that would like to see reviewed or a topic they are interested in seeing discussed.

Things I will write about:

  • anime -recent & classic
  • manga -recent & classic
  • live action TV
  • classic literature
  • recent literatue
  • films
  • video games
  • tabletop games
  • poetry
  • anything generally related to geek or pop culture
  • music

So, if you have anything that tickles your fancy, drop us a line.

Am hoping to have a review of HBO’s True Detective up by the weekend, as well as some more anime reviews once I get a chance to finish them.

academic article: Miyazaki -life and legacy

Here is the completed and [heavily] edited version of the article on Miyazaki that I co-authored.

It’s not great but it’s a good first step on the road to more proper academic publication.

Please give any feedback if you do read.

http://theconversation.com/miyazakis-legacy-is-sure-to-live-on-whether-or-not-he-retires-23780

Sneak speak at the new live action Patlabor film

Sneak speak at the new live action Patlabor film

I’m a pretty massive fan of the Patlabor franchise (retrospective on the series coming soon), so am excite to see new & confirmed images of the upcoming live action film.

Whilst so many live action adaptations from anime fail on so many levels, I hope that they get this right. For the Labors if nothing else.

plus the tech in the anime, OVAs & movies are so dated that it’s almost funny & painful to look at them.

The 1st post is always the hardest

This is a new blog dedicated to my view of the world of Pop Culture, mainly focussed around various forms of literature (though mostly fantasy & sci-fi), degrees of academia (including drafts of my upcoming articles & theses), manga & anime, games & gaming, films, various reviews & some indulgence in nostalgia.

With what one would deem “nerd”, “geek” & “alternative media” cultures becoming more and more aligned to more mainstream cultural & commercial products, it is my intention to present different points of view upon the every changing worlds of popular and media cultures.

I shall be posting reviews, opinion pieces, discussions, retrospectives and personal indulgences as well as drafts of academic works as they come to hand.

From the standpoint of both an academic and an avid consumer of various cultural and media products.

A brief background of myself:

  • I am currently working on a Masters degree in Media Studies & Literature specialising in manga & anime. My undergraduate work was in Film Studies, English Literature, Creative Writing & Philosophy.
  • am considered a world expert in Supernatural narrative anime, due to being one of the few academics currently researching that genre as a standalone subject.
  • am a writer who has had several articles & short stories published & am currently attempting to finish a fantasy novel. Extracts of which may be posted here in future.
  • am avid music fan who is well entrenched in Heavy Metal & its many sub-genres & have also fronted several (not great) Metal bands in the past.
  • I also engage in cross-platform gaming & try not to engage in exclusive fanisms over which console/platform, series, producers/companies or era may or may not be the best.

I am aiming to prove that is indeed “the Geek Shall Inherit The World“.