Monday, February 17, 2014

Ender's Game

A longtime fan of Orson Scott Card's book, I was pleased enough with the recent adaptation of Ender's Game to the big screen to find a spot for it on my Top 13 Movies of 2013. The movie holds up well on Blu-ray as we follow young Ender Wiggin's (Asa Butterfield) story as child prodigy sent to Battle School to transform him into to humanity's best hope in their war against the ant-like race known as Formics.

Adapted and directed by Gavin Hood, the script streamlines Ender's journey while ignoring large subplots from the book including that of Ender's siblings (Abigail BreslinJimmy ‘Jax’ Pinchak) on Earth after his departure. What the film does deliver on is the complicated character study of a child genius striving to understand the aggression both in himself and the enemy he will be ordered to destroy, all set inside a collection of amazing effects and production design. For more on the film check out my original review.

Although I knew the Peter and Valentine story was never shot and wouldn't make it any kind of extended cut of the moive, I did hope for more scenes from Battle School featuring more of the other armies composed of child soldiers competing against each other in the orbiting space station. In his commentary the writer/director discusses the challenges of the film including losing a fifth of their funding during production and having one of their special effects houses go bankrupt. Facing these kinds of problems the design and final look of the film is even more impressive (although it means an extended cut of the director's original vision has relatively no chance of ever being completed).

Through Hood's commentary and interviews in the featurettes we also learn about his own military experience (drafted into the army at age 17) that help bring an unique perspective to the film. The extras also cover numerous aspects of the film from story such as production design, visual effects, and the young cast being sent to Space Camp and Boot Camp to bond and come out looking and acting like the kinds of child soldiers to be found in the pages of Orson Scott Card's original story.

If I have one major nit to pick its the complete absence of Orson Scott Card himself anywhere in the collection. Despite the controversy surrounding the man it's a shame there's no place for the person who created this story, and grew it into a full universe of the past few decades, anywhere in this collection. The film's marketing and release distanced itself the creator due to his unfortunate public views on homosexuality and same sex marriage that led to boycotts of the film. The entire soap opera backstory is swept under the rug, along with the author, where a featurette discussing these factors (and the fact that neither the film nor the original story hold or promote such beliefs) would have made a nice addition to the release.

The Blu-ray includes a DVD and digital copy of the film, a collection of 8 featurettes on the making of the film, deleted and extended scenes with commentary, an audio track from director Gavin Hood and a second audio track from producers Gigi Pritzker and Roberto Orci discussing various aspects of the film from CGI and production design to the film's stars and storyline.

[Lionsgate, Blu-ray $39.99 / DVD $29.95]

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