Hollywood producers should stop listening to nerds. The cheerleaders of the geek-net already managed to talk gullible studio bosses into bankrolling flops like Watchmen and John Carter, but their work is not yet done. Based on a moderately popular 1985 sci-fi novel, Ender’s Game is yet another intriguing, complex, strangely unlikeable big-budget experiment destined to thrill the fans and befuddle the rest of us.
The first half is crammed with ideas, as 12-year-old strategic prodigy Ender Wiggin (a wonderfully frosty Asa Butterfield) is hand-picked to lead Earth’s military in the war against alien Formics. The cast are strong, the effects well designed, and the script’s interest in how violence influences and inspires children is timely and insightful.
But it falters once the actual war begins: Ben Kingsley shows up as a Maori warrior with the weirdest imaginable accent, the final battle is uninvolving, and there’s an unconvincing upbeat coda. Ender’s Game ends up being fitfully engaging and endearingly odd.