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Ender’s Game (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 25, 2014 by  



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“Ender’s Game” is an enjoyable sci-fi film!  Granted, there is some violence, so it’s not a sci-fi family film meant to be seen by the little ones, but for those who love sci-fi action, especially with a younger cast, then “Ender’s Game” is a film worth recommending.

Images courtesy of © 2013 Ender’s Game Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Ender’s Game

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2013

DURATION: 114 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2:40:1 Aspect Ratio, English DTS-HD MA 7.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 for Late-Night Listening, English Description Audio, Espanol Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

COMPANY: Summit Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (Some Violence, Sci-Fi Action and Thematic Material)

Release Date: February 11, 2014

Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card

Directed by Gavin Hood

Screenplay by Gavin Hood

Produced by Orson Scott Card, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, Alex Kurtzman, Linda McDonough, Roberto Orci, Gigi Pritzker, Ed Ulbrich

Executive Producer: David Coatsworth, Deborah Del Prete, Bill Lischak, Ted Ravinett, Venkatesh Roddam, Mandy Safavi, Ivy Zhong

Music by Steve Jablonsky

Cinematography by Donald McAlpine

Edited by Lee Smith, Zach Staenberg

Production Design by Megan Fenton

Casting by John Pasidera

Production Design by Sean Haworth, Ben Procter

Art Direction: Greg Berry, A. Todd Holland, Clint Wallace

Set Decoration by Peter Lando

Costume Design by Christine Bieselin Clark

Starring:

Asa Butterfield as Ender Wiggin

Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff

Hailee Steinfeld as Petra Arkanian

Abigail Breslin as Valeintine Wiggin

Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham

Viola Davis as Major Gwen Anderson

Aramis Knight as Bean

Suraj Partha as Alai

Moises Arias as Bonzo Madrid

Khylin Rhambo as Dink Meeker

Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak as Peter Wiggin

Nonso Anozie as Sergeant Dap

Conor Carroll as Bernard

Caleb J. Thaggard as Stilson

Cameron Gaskins as Slattery

Stevie Ray Dallimore as John Wiggin

Andrea Powell as Theresa Wiggin

Brandon Soo Hoo as Fly Molo

In the near future, a hostile alien race has attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training the best and brightest young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.

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Back in 1985, Orson Scott Card’s military sci-fi novel “Ender’s Game” captivated readers.

Originally created as a short story for the 1977 issue of “Analog Science Fiction and Fact”, “Ender’s Game” would go on to win multiple awards for “Best Novel” and four sequels would be released, with the most recent, “Ender in Exile” released in 2008.

Meanwhile, the original novel “Ender’s Game” went through a long process for a film adaptation.

In April 2011, Summit Entertainment picked up the rights to the film and would hire Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Rendition”) and cinematographer Donald McAlpine (“Predator”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “The Chronicles of narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, “Moulin Rouge!”).

The film would star young British actor Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”), Harrison Ford (“Star Wars: Episode IV-VI”, “Indiana Jones” films, “Blade Runner”), Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”, “Romeo and Juliet”), Abigail Bresin (“Little Miss Sunshine”, “Signs”, “Zombieland”), Ben Kingsley (“Schindler’s List”, “Hugo”, “Shutter Island”), Viola Davis (“The Help”, “Solaris”, “Doubt”), Moises Arias (“Hannah Montana”, “Nacho Libre”, “The Kings of Summer”) and Aramis Knight (“Crossing Over”, “Rendition”, “The Dark Knight Rises”).

The film which was budgeted at $110 million, would go on to make over $112 million in the box office.  And now “Ender’s Game” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in Feb. 2013.

“Ender’s Game” is set in 2086 and sets up the war between Earth vs. the Formics.  And how a pilot named Mazer Rackham sacrificed his life by ramming into the Formics mother ship and ending the war.

Fifty years later, as Earth is anticipating the Formics to return, the next line in defense are Earth’s most brightest children, especially children who are gifted in video games which the International Fleet are observing.

Leading the International Fleet is Colonel Hyrum Graff (portrayed by Harrison Ford) who is observing a young teenager named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (portrayed by Asa Butterfield), along with Major Gwen Anderson (portrayed by Viola Davis).

Colonel Graff has a gut feeling that Ender is the person that will be successful in defeating the Formics, but Major Anderson is quite weary of Colonel Graff’s gut feelings as he has been wrong before.  But the way Ender has succeeded in battle in the game, his planned strategies in his head, they need to conduct another test on Ender…rejection.

But they observe as Ender being bullied by kids at school after Ender has beaten on of them and find a perfect time to test but rejection on Ender by removing the monitor on his neck and kicking him out of school.

Back at home, Ender’s life is not as easy.  His brother Peter (portrayed by Jimmy Pinchak) and sister Valentine (portrayed by Abigail Breslin) also didn’t pass and were sent back home, while his older brother Peter, was once being monitored by Colonel Graff but Peter tend to show violent tendencies, and we see Peter nearly choking his brother.

But when both Colonel Graff and Major Anderson appear the the home of the Griffin family, they want him to be in Battle School, despite his family’s wishes for him to not be dragged to the school, but Colonel Graff reminds Ender’s father that they have no choice.  They reveal to Ender that being kicked out of school was to the final test, to see how he would react to the removal of the monitor.  Ender believes he was born to be in “Battle School”, especially since he has studied the military, especially the final attack by Earth’s hero, Mazer Rackham, who destroyed the Formics mother ship.

But as Ender is brought to Battle School, he must adapt to others in the school (known as “launchies”) and he must use his mental abilities and skill to take on various other schools in preparation for a war against the Formics.

Meanwhile, he begins playing “The Mind Game” and while he is monitored, his choices start to become an interest for both Colonel Graff and Major Anderson that he is the right person to lead the war against the Formics, but life in Battle School will not be easy for young Ender as he must deal with people who are jealous of him, people who bully him and also the strict rules from Colonel Graff, preventing Ender from contacting his family.

How will Ender fare in Battle School and will he be ready for this war against the Formics?

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VIDEO:

“Ender’s Game” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  The film features wonderful picture quality, sci-fi elements are well-rendered, indoor visual effects are wonderful, closeups feature a lot of detail and CG and real elements are wonderfully balanced.

I did not notice any artifacts or banding issues during my viewing of “Ender’s Game”. This film is absolutely gorgeous, featuring cool to warm colors but mechanical design and environments were well-rendered and looks magnificent on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Ender’s Game” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, Dolby Digital 2.0 optimized for late night listening, English description audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Featuring an immersive lossless soundtrack, “Ender’s Game” is definitely an action-driven sci-fi film in which environments, ambiance, all-action war can be heard through the surround channels and rear surround channels.  Center and front channel featured crystal clear dialogue.  Very good use of LFE during the space war segments and good directional sounds for weapon and vehicle blasts.

Overall, a wonderful lossless soundtrack!

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Ender’s Game” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – Audio commentary by director Gavin Hood.
  • Audio Commentary 2 – Audio commentary by producers Gigi Pritzker (producer of “Drive” and “Green Street Hooligans”) and Roberto Orci (producer of “Transformers”, “Star Trek”, “Stra Trek Into Darkness”, “Mission: Impossible III”).
  • Ender’s World: The Making of Ender’s Game – (49:04) The making, casting and in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the creation of “Ender’s World”.
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes – (10:49) Deleted and extended scenes featuring optional audio commentary by director Gavin Hood.
  • Inside the Mind Games – (3:50) How “The Mind Game” was created.
  • Theatrical Trailer – Featuring two film trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Ender’s Game” comes with a Blu-ray and DVD version of the film plus an UltraViolet code for a digital version of the film. Plus a slipcover is included.

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Back when I was in high school, “Ender’s Game”  was recommended reading to me by a friend.  As a member of the high school book club, I chose to avoid “Ender’s Game” and wanted to read the hype that was surrounding Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel “Less Than Zero”.

But it was a novel that I was constantly reminded to read and being a teenager at the time, I somehow forgot about the book and by the late ’80s, the type of science fiction I was in, was anything related to “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

But when news came out that “Ender’s Game” was being made into a film, immediately, memories of my high school past began to come back and sure enough, the film came out and despite its big budget special effects, due to the price to make the film, “Ender’s Game” made a small profit and entertainment magazines were declaring the film as a box office bomb.

Many who felt that too much of the novel was being jammed into a 114-minute film and thus the film suffered from pacing issues.

It is true that the film tries to do so much in one film and almost as what if George Lucas had to combine “Star Wars: Episode IV” and “Star Wars: Episode V” into one film.  There are many characters and Ender’s journey from getting out of school to going into battle does go very quickly.

And I can see where those who have read the book, may have been disappointed.

So, my review is coming from a different perspective.  One who didn’t read the book.  One who grew up with many sci-fi films especially during the ’80s and one who enjoyed “Tron” and “The Last Starfighter”.  Films that features video game elements but also a fun young cast.

Already, the fact that Harrison Ford is in another sci-fi film is a major plus but I also enjoyed Asa Butterfield’s performance in the 2008 film “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and also in the 2011 film “Hugo”.  Add in the wonderful Viola Davis and Sir Ben Kingsley, and that’s four talents that made me interested in wanting to watch this film.

But of course, it’s seeing how far they can take this film visually and story-wise.

For those who grew up in the ’80s and were amazed by the sci-fi film “The Last Starfighter”, the thought that one teenager who was so good at video games would eventually be selected by an alien race to fight against another enemy antagonist sounds so cheesy but yet it was so much fun!

In “Ender’s Game”, to think that intelligent children would be Earth’s last hope is quite fascinating and how the world rests on the shoulders of a young disciplined strategist, again, it sounds so cheesy but it works.

As novels and films such as the “Percy Jackson” series or even “The Chronicles of Narnia”, it all comes down to how one’s perception of sci-fi adventure films that involve children.  Afterall, there are other (violent) sci-fi films that take on the sci-fi story of adults take on the unknown, may it be “Aliens”, “Predator”, “Red Planet” but for a storyline involving a group of kids brought up to fight against an alien race, I enjoyed the film for its action-sequences, its special effects and it’s twist ending that I never saw coming.

Yes, I know….I probably should read the book, something I have been wanting to do since being told about it, back in 1985, but perhaps maybe its best because I’m not as disappointed in the film who were big fans of the original novel.

For me, it was like watching a young underdog becoming a hero for Earth, once again, reminding me of how much I enjoyed “The Last Starfighter”, back in the ’80s, when I was much younger.  You may see this in animated films, much more in Japanese animation, but from Hollywood, for a big budget film… kids fighting aliens, not so much.

But I do agree there were pacing issues and that for the money spent, perhaps special effects could have been much better but overall, I enjoyed the film and it helps that I didn’t watch the film with previous knowledge of the original novel.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality was fantastic.  Closeups feature great detail, visual effects were very good and for the most part, I didn’t notice any artifacts or banding issues.  The lossless 7.1 soundtrack was also a major plus as it does feature an active soundtrack utilizing surround and rear surround channels.  Dialogue and music were crystal clear through the center and front channels and overall, a solid lossless soundtrack.

And for special features, you get two audio commentaries from the director and the producers, the making of “Ender’s Game”, deleted and extended scenes and more.  I do wish there was an audio commentary with the young cast, it would have been good to hear about their experience as they had to undergo sci-fi boot camp in order to get fit and prepare for their role.

Overall, “Ender’s Game” is an enjoyable sci-fi film!  Granted, there is some violence, so it’s not a sci-fi family film meant to be seen by the little ones, but for those who love sci-fi action, especially with a younger cast, then “Ender’s Game” is a film worth recommending.

 






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