Based on the Orson Scott novel of the same name, Ender’s Game doesn't have much going for it. It's by-the-numbers sci-fi with a minor twist. This film, which opens area-wide on Friday, has been in the works for a decade as the script has gone through numerous rewrites; the final product isn't worth the wait.
The "twist" is that the film's hero is just a kid. Young Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is the top student at military school where he's learning how he could fight the aliens who once tried to take over planet earth. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) thinks the kid has what it takes. Graff's assistant (Viola Davis) thinks he might have too many emotional and psychological issues, but Graff promotes the kid anyway as he fears an alien invasion is imminent.
While at command school, Ender has a run-in with the Napoleonic Bonzo (Moises Arias), his team captain with whom he develops an intense rivalry. Despite the challenges, Ender finds a good friend in fellow trainee Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), who reminds him of his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin). Though well-cast (Steinfeld and Breslin are both terrific up-and-coming actresses), neither of these young adult characters is fully developed.
The film’s first half tediously shows Ender’s military skill development. He learns to fight in a zero gravity game held inside a giant globe that looks like something out of Tron. And Ender eventually leads a team of misfits (like the Bad News Bears of the future without much backstory or character definition) to victory in battles against other teams. Though diminutive (and in a number of shirtless scenes, we see just how skinny the kid is), Ender has a fierce temper and stands up to bullies on more than one occasion. But by the time he begins to lead his team under the toughest of circumstances, the film has nearly come to an end, making the movie's final scene anticlimactic, even as it leaves room for a sequel.