WHAT a pleasant surprise - at last an intelligent Sci-Fi film for young adults. Ender's Game (12A) could have been a CGI bore-fest with a predictable plot, stacks of aliens, and stale video game sequences, but it delivers much more.
It is refreshing to see that the young adult market is being granted a film with real substance and even themes that act as a relevant social commentary on warfare over the last decade.
Ender's Game is based on the work of novelist Orson Scott Card, who has controversially been the subject of debate over his views on homosexuality. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) lives on a futuristic earth, which 70 years ago almost faced extinction at the mandibles of an ant-like alien race known as the Formics.
With the constant threat of another Formic invasion, the International Military trains its future army and seeks another hero like Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), without whom the world would certainly have been lost.
Shy, bullied, but incredibly gifted at strategy, schoolboy Ender is a gamer who aspires to achieve his dream of being a commander.
Under the guidance of Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), Ender is trained to be a killing machine, but must realise his skill and overcome obstacles to progress up the ranks in the hope of achieving his dream. Butterfield gives a mature performance as Ender who is a lot more of a multi-dimensional character than a lot of young adult film heroes.
Despite the film hurtling fairly plainly through Ender's training, there is plenty of emotional conflict for Ender to deal with on the way.
As a pre-pubescent schoolboy, Ender must face the same life tests affecting the film's target audience - the first sparks of love, bullying, constant exams, homesickness, and lack of self-belief.
But key to the intelligence of this film is that Ender must also deal with empathy for his enemies in whichever form they come.
Questions of morality in the use of drone warfare and themes of colonisation also make Ender's Game very relevant within modern military action in the Middle East.
But while the film contains these intelligent themes, it is by no means a lecture.
The action and graphics, particularly the in-game visuals, are breathtaking.
For once I wish I had been watching the film in 3D.
Director Gavin Hood scores a direct hit with Ender's Game by making it accessible to a much wider audience than its billing suggests.
I would encourage adults not to be put off by the cast of young actors, believing this is a children's film, get down to the cinema and take a look.
You, like me, should be pleasantly surprised.
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