Film review | Ender’s Game – Asa Butterfield’s space cadet holds the future in his hands

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If you’ve ever been taken aback by the youthful appearance of police officers, then you’ll find the notion of a futuristic society that trains pre-teens to be its military commanders even more painfully discombobulating. That’s the set-up of Ender’s Game, a sci-fi adventure based on the bestselling 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card, which stars Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Hugo) as a 12-year-old genius plucked from his family to be turned into a warrior leader aboard an orbiting space station. With the Earth under threat from insect-like aliens known as Formics, will whippersnapper Ender Wiggin prove to have the right stuff to ensure humanity survives?

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Writer-director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) packs some interesting – and chilling – ideas into his adaptation, but observing Ender honing his strategic skills by playing laser-tag in zero gravity proves far from gripping. And when he graduates to computer-simulated battles, we’re effectively watching someone else play video games. The film’s grown-ups do provide diversion, of a kind. Ben Kingsley sports Maori facial tattoos and a wonky New Zealand accent as a veteran war hero, while Harrison Ford, as Ender’s military mentor, plays his role with a constipated scowl that makes him look as if he’s just learnt someone has pinched his bran flakes.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 114 mins. Director Gavin Hood.

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