This is one of those movies where I think I would have liked it a lot more if I was still in elementary or middle school. As I am now, and given the fact that I’ve read this book pretty much to death since middle school, I thought the movie felt pretty flat. At the same time, I didn’t walk in with very high expectations. I think the best way to explain it would be “the movie in my head is just too strong to break.”
If you’re looking for an exact translation from book to silver screen, prepare to be disappointed. They cut out and alter a lot of the story, and to be honest, I thought it dragged a lot in the first half.
The entire time I was watching, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps the timing for this movie would have been better back around the time A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) was made. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking that the movie would have been perfect if Steven Spielberg had worked on it with Haley Joel Osment as Ender. Not saying Asa Butterfield wasn’t great; I remember being impressed with his acting in Hugo (2011), and I was no less impressed here, I thought he did well. I don’t think it was the acting so much that fell short as it seems there was just no good way about condensing the entire book into a movie. If you’re familiar with the story, there was definitely a significant amount of time crunching.
I would also like to take a quick moment to say here that all this time, I pictured Ender as a blonde. I don’t think the book itself explicitly states it, but I remember a few book covers featuring Ender as a blonde, and therefore that’s how I’ve always pictured him. Needless to say, having Ender be a dark-haired boy in this case was a bit distracting for me. In the whole scheme of things though, I admit this was a very minor detail.
For the most part, I felt the beginning half of the movie dragged. There were also only a small handful of the sets that impressed me, but I admit to being spoiled by modern-day CG. The final battle though, and generally towards the ending the movie had a bit more of my attention than it had at the start.
FINAL VERDICT: C-
Sadly, this book did not translate very well to screen. In fact, a lot of it was pretty cringe-worthy to watch. At the same time, it is possible that I’m extremely biased because I enjoyed the book so much. Two of my friends that had never read the book enjoyed it thoroughly, if that counts for anything.