It's been a long time coming, but best-selling author, Brigham Young descendant and all-around tool Orson Scott Card has finally decided to let someone make his popular 1985 novel Ender's Game into a motion picture. Card had held out as long as he could, even saying that his book was "unfilmable," but the author (or his accountant) finally relented, with Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) being handed the plum assignments of writer and director.
Not having read Card's novel, I couldn't say whether it was truly "unfilmable," but what ended up on the screen is indeed "filmable" in that we've seen these narrative threads countless times before in science fiction cinema. It's the future, and the great military leader Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) has successfully defended Earth against hordes of insect-like invaders. Fearing they might return, Colonel Hyram Graff (Harrison Ford) searches for a new champion and finds one in Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a boy who believes in beating his opponents so thoroughly that they won't even think of attacking him again. Ender is shipped off to hone his skills as both a warrior and a leader, making friends and enemies alike and questioning authority almost every chance he gets.
Best known for Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Butterfield is a likable actor, and that innate charm is necessary for us to warm up to a character with such fascistic tendencies. Indeed, the strength of the film is not in its conventional sci-fi elements but in the manner in which Ender relates to everyone around him, particularly the other kids. The rest is rather rote, though the late-inning twist provides a nice jolt.
But it's hard to see this succeeding enough to justify the filming of Card's other Ender books, meaning the Game might be over before it truly begins.