Direction: Gavin Hood
Actors: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford
Rating: ** ½
Cast members Asa Butterfield (L), Hailee Steinfeld and Harrison Ford pose at the premiere of Ender's Game at the TCL Chinese theatre in Hollywood, California. (Reuters Photo)
Size and age don't matter. When it comes to superheroes likely to save humanity from annihilation in the not-so-distant future, it could even be a precocious boy endowed with will power and a brilliant strategic mind. As it happens, a pint-sized, somewhat scrawny schoolboy has these qualities and more.
The future of Planet Earth is in the hands and mental skills of a wunderkind named Ender Wiggin according to the bestselling author Orson Scott Card. Adapted from his 1985 page-turner, this space opera gets the full-blown, CGl-crazed treatment from director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). If you have a taste for interplanetary combat with malevolent aliens, this is your ticket to ride.
The ongoing futuristic battle is between creepy ant-like antagonists and an international fleet of military commanders. A catastrophic crisis can be averted by training a batch of supremely gifted kids led by the titular space cadet (Butterfield, the breakout star of Martin Scorsese's Hugo).
Undoubtedly, the production design which uses imaginative sets and décor keeps our interest rooted in the exploits of the junior saviour. Without much ado, he earns the respect of his peers as well as the support of two war stalwarts (Ford and Ben Kingsley).
Aimed obviously at a teen audience, the outcome has its passages of technical bravura, which has become a given in the sci-fi adventures ever since George Lucas went ballistic with Star Wars some 30 years ago. Quite expectedly, the emotional quotient is barely palpable, the concentration being on visuals which at points, seem to belong to a videogame console.
Besides all the razzmatazz, there's a message that it's essential to prepare the next generation from ensuring that the world isn't blown to smithereens some day. However, a climactic plot twist reduces the moral issues of recruiting youngsters for acts of genocide to simplistic levels.
Much of the films' appeal comes from the forceful performance of Asa Butterfield. Harrison Ford as a ruthless colonel passes muster, while Ben Kingsley, sporting Maori face tattoos, manages to register a strong screen presence.
Don't expect originality of either content or style from Ender's Game and you won't be disappointed.