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Ender’s Game Blu-ray + DVD Review

Reviewed by on Feb 11, 2014
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld reviews Ender’s Game, the Blu-ray & DVD version of a Sci-Fi classic novel turned to film. What if saving the planet were up to kids and teens?

By: Lynn Barker

Ender Wiggin is one smart tween but can he be a ruthless killer all while keeping his moral center? Does he have the leadership potential to “play” high tech wargames that might lead to the destruction of an attacking alien race?

Ender directs a simulationEnder directs a simulation

Story Goes

Fifty years after an alien race, the Formics, have viciously attacked Earth hoping to make it their new home, Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and his cohorts are sure the aliens will soon attack again. In prep for that day, he and a military group are training tweens and teens to lead the new, high tech battle because of their quick minds and ability to multi-task (Hey, you can play a video game and text at the same time.. right?).

Ender is guided by Colonel GraffEnder is guided by Colonel Graff

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), the brightest and best, is taken out of school to be trained at an elite Battle School on an orbiting space station. Top cadet Petra (Hailee Steinfeld) becomes a close friend and Bonzo (Moises Arias), commander of the most successful unit in the war games, is a serious enemy. Ender is able to beat Bonzo and become top leader at the school but at great emotional cost. Psychologist Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) is worried about his mental stability.

Bonzo attacks Ender as Petra watchesBonzo attacks Ender as Petra watches

Ender, Petra and other top cadets are promoted to Command School on an asteroid that was a forward base for the Formics during their first attack. There, Ender is trained in wartime strategy by the legendary commander of the war against the Formics, Mazer Rackham (Sir Ben Kingsley). Using a high tech virtual reality “simulator”, Ender has to lead fellow cadets into virtual battle with the Formics. Sacrificing more troops than he would like in a final “test”,  Ender and Earth forces win but at what horrible cost?

Petra follows Ender's commands during the simulationPetra follows Ender's commands during the simulation

Special Features

You get an Audio Commentary by Director Gavin Hood and one by two of the film’s Producers and they are interesting in different ways. Director Hood reveals a lot of behind-the-scenes info and you see how much of his own military knowledge went into the training scenes in the film. The Producers talk about the journey from novel to film and why some of the book story was left out of the film.

Petra and Ender suited up for the gamesPetra and Ender suited up for the games

Enders World: The Making of Ender’s Game is an 8-part Making Of extra that includes origin of the story, the book to film process, etc.  One of the producer’s nephews read the novel in 1985 and told her it should be a movie. It took 20 years to make that happen.

The film’s actors, including lead Asa Butterfield and the great Harrison Ford, talk about their characters and training for the movie. Ford likes that the story doesn’t talk down to young people.  Production design paintings and drawings are awesome to view.

Asa with Harrison Ford at a premiereAsa with Harrison Ford at a premiere

The themes of good vs. evil and moral choices when we are at war are talked about. Director Hood tells us he was in the army at age 17 so he can identify with Ender’s confusion, fear and worry.  The young actors went both to NASA Space Camp and a boot camp to get all the military training down pat. This is where they all bonded as friends. Sir Ben Kingsley as hero Mazer Rackham, talks about having all his tattoos put on each day.

Major Rackham (Sir Ben Kingsley) and his tattoosMajor Rackham (Sir Ben Kingsley) and his tattoos

The Zero Gravity games are explored as we see the actors on wires and different rigs to achieve a “floating” look during the wargames they play in teams. Looks so fun! The young actors did 90% of their own stunts. Impressive.

Production Design is explored. What would the film look like? Military combined with futuristic was chosen. The Production Designer shows us a real set and, on his iPad, what it would look like in the final film, once the CGI work in computer was finished. Very cool!

In an extra called Inside the Mind Game, we are shown, step by step how the video games Ender played in the movie were created. An actor does motion capture. There are no words but the entire process is shown with music. We see all the many “passes” in computer that each shot took to finish the game. This is both interesting and entertaining.

Petra teaches Ender wargame movesPetra teaches Ender wargame moves

Deleted and Extended Scenes are all very good and I would recommend watching first, then re-watching with the Director’s commentary because he talks about scenes removed since they tipped the movie’s surprise ending. We learn what he hated to lose and why he had to cut it. Enjoyable.

Wrapping Up

Ender’s Game is a film that doesn’t talk down to tweens and teens. Kids are the lead characters and nothing less than the fate of the planet rests on their shoulders. Heavy topics like morality in the face of war are explored side-by-side with fun, futuristic wargames and action all done with eye-popping special visual effects.

Petra and Ender at lunchPetra and Ender at lunch

Asa Butterfield does an amazing job as Ender, a smart tween who is both powerful and vulnerable. Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Sir Ben Kingsley are, of course, great actors and serve their roles well.

Viola Davis as Major AndersonViola Davis as Major Anderson

This home entertainment Blu-ray & DVD set offers lots of very entertaining and informational extras, very well worth collecting or gift-giving. We went 4 stars on the film and will go 4 on this set.

Ender’s Game Blu-ray + DVD Rating: 4

Ender's Game Blu-ray and DVD CoverEnder's Game Blu-ray and DVD Cover

Ender’s Game is now available on Blu-ray & DVD!