Strangely enough, it’s the adults in the movie who don’t often fare as well. Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) has practically carved out a cinematic niche as the master of bizarre accents, but the one he’s adapted for Ender is distracting and doesn’t serve any real purpose. Along those same lines, Ender’s parents are such a non-presence in his life that it’s puzzling why the filmmakers bothered including them at all. Perhaps the biggest head-scratcher of all is Ford’s take on the gruff leader who is doggedly convinced of Ender’s greatness. Once again, Ford seems to have contracted another case of the I-don’t-want-to-be-on-set grumpies, and in practically every scene, he looks like he’s only seconds from telling everyone to get off his spaceship.

In addition to a handful of weak performances, the script also suffers from a surplus of insider lingo. With so much of the film’s running time dedicated to Ender’s elaborate training process, a lot of the dialogue thrown around doesn’t mean much to anyone who hasn’t fought in a war in space. Truth be told, the film would’ve been far better if more time had been dedicated to character development instead.

Despite getting bogged down in details that don’t always add up, one still can’t ignore Ender’s greatest strength, plenty of fascinating big ideas. And that imaginative spirit extends to everything from the film’s gorgeous special effects to that rapturous feeling of truly being transported somewhere else. Like Gravity before it, Ender's Game is the sort of movie worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. It also marks a promising beginning to a teen franchise with a broad range of appeal—and not a sparkly vampire in sight.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None
  • Language/Profanity: Very little. As- and dic- are both used once. Crap stands in for its harsher counterpart.
  • Sex/Nudity: None, although there’s a non-sexual scene in a shower where Ender’s bare chest and back are shown.
  • Violence/Mature Themes: Ender is bullied at school and not afraid to throw an equally brutal punch back. Ender and his older brother Peter get into a squabble and Peter wraps his arms around Ender’s neck and says he could kill him. Pre-teens and teens, including Ender are recruited for a life-and-death battle against an alien race that caused thousands of fatalities. Some of the simulations they’re involved with involve guns. Bonzo threatens Ender on several occasions, and when Bonzo attacks Ender in the shower, Ender accidentally hits him so hard that Bonzo sustains a significant head injury on the tile. A virtual game that Ender plays has some pretty frightening images (especially for younger children), and the aliens are pretty scary looking, too.

*This Review First Published 11/1/13