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Doug's Take: 'Ender's Game' hits with sensitivity and style

Published: Friday, Nov. 1 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Asa Butterfield stars in "Ender's Game."

Summit Entertainment

For years, every time Orson Scott Card joined me on my radio program, I asked about the status of “Ender's Game” making it to the big screen, and for years Scott told me things were in the works. But he was being very particular about how his baby would be handled by Hollywood.

Well, the day is finally here, and one of my favorite books, now a movie, hits theaters this weekend. But most important, it hits with sensitivity and style.

I must admit, it’s been some time since my last reading of this sci-fi classic, so I won’t be going into a scene-by-scene and chapter-by-chapter comparison. I want to focus on whether or not the filmmakers captured the characters and the true spirit of the story.

With relief, I can tell you they did. Everything works.

Let’s start with the casting. The entire story pivots on Ender, and Asa Butterfield is perfect delivering an ethereal strength in a slight and almost fragile-appearing body. His personal angst regarding willingness to crush adversaries so as to never be threatened again permeates the story and his character.

Harrison Ford adds weight and grit in his portrayal of Col. Graff, who is obsessed with his pursuit of the best and brightest young people on earth to be molded into high-tech warriors whose mission is to eliminate — once and for all — the alien threat that nearly conquered the planet 50 years earlier.

Viola Davis steps into the role of Major Anderson, who is charged with monitoring the psyche of her young charges as they are subjected to crushing pressures.

Aramis Knight, Haliee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin star as Bean, Petra and Valentine, and each do themselves, and the film, proud. And, finally, there’s Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackman, the legendary hero of the initial war with the invading aliens. His tattooed persona inspires and intimidates not only Ender, but the audience, as well.

Special effects in “Ender's Game” are critical, and after creating and holding these images and characters in my imagination for so long, I’m always anxious to see if my vision and that of the filmmakers is compatible. Again, no disappointment here. The imagery of Battle School and the unfolding of the “final game” are simply wonderful.

I really like this film. “Ender's Game” is rated PG-13 and gets 3½ stars.

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