By Muhammad Muzammal Columnist
A fast-paced, intelligent blockbuster, “Ender’s Game” defies Hollywood conventions of the “kill first, think later” mentality. The compassionate hero, Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), always thinks about the consequences of his actions, even when those consequences are beyond his control.
Based on the popular science fiction novel of the same name, “Ender’s Game” shows Wiggin as a strategic and brilliant prodigy who attends a battle school designed to educate children in military command. The school is also a ground for adolescent violence.
There’s a scene where Ender manhandles bullies who crowd around him. His anger and frustration are the result of his release from the school’s program. Little does Ender know, this is a test for him administrated by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), who views Ender as a prophet and a savior who will protect the human race from the Formics, giant ant-like creatures whose goal is to colonize Earth. Therefore, Graff wishes to see Ender’s reactions to rejection.
Ender’s handling of the rejection impresses Graff, who offers Ender the opportunity to attend a prestigious program in outer space. Following his dream, Ender accepts and the film then reveals him as something more than a conventional Hollywood hero.
Ender is highly tactical and fearless, but he is also caring. While the hardened military contains rough, violent soldiers, Ender has a big, empathetic heart. This is shown when he once again fights off a condescending bully, who receives life-threatening injuries as a result. Ender feels regret and guilt for hurting someone so badly and hates that he had to fight violently.
What separates “Ender’s Game” from recent mainstream science fiction films such as “Star Trek Into Darkness” or “Man of Steel,” is its emphasis on ideals. Philosophy, not action, is the driving force of Ender and what he represents as a character and a symbol.
Ender has the ability to become a great general but he is unlike past ruthless commanders. His sister tells him, “You love what you understand.” Ender understands and in turn, loves humanity, but he also wants to understand the Formics. Therefore, he attempts to relate to them, raising the character of Ender to Christ-figure status.
Ender represents the antithesis of army mind control. Graff, with every pawn he has, tries to manipulate Ender into “saving lives” when in actuality, he is telling Ender to kill another species.
The movie doesn’t shy away from the harsh truth of the film’s subject material – children are being trained to kill. It brings up a meaningful moral question – is it right to teach kids how to murder even if it is for a greater good?
The film progresses to show Ender emerge as an outstanding leader and fighter. He earns the best grades and advances a weak team in the battle room tournament. The riveting battle room sequences feature trainees floating and fighting in zero gravity. The portrayal of Ender by Asa Butterfield is impressive, to say the least. Butterfield commands the screen with each emotional scene and has a soothing complexity in his voice, which is honest yet scared, a characteristic of Ender himself.
“Ender’s Game” is a success and the rare blockbuster that leaves the viewer thinking. The film contains provocative moral implications. The most meaningful question it asks is, can genocide ever be justified? Can it?