By Travis Trombley
Set in the not-too-distant future, after Earth has been attacked and humanity almost destroyed by an insect-like race of extra terrestrial beings formally known as the Formics (and informally referred to as Buggers), Ender’s Game follows Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin (Asa Butterfield, Hugo), a 12 year-old genius given a hefty responsibility: save the world. In order to defend humanity from any future Bugger attacks (an argument elaborated upon to great effect as the film progresses), the military leaders have begun identifying and training child geniuses to be the future commanders of the International Fleet (because, as popular sci-fi tells us, space travel will eventually unite the many factions of earth). The logic behind this decision is rooted in the premise that these children can think more creatively and can more effectively process large amounts of data than adults.
Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford—do I really need to put a movie here?) whole-heartedly believes Ender is the “thoroughbred” (that he compares this boy to a horse should tell you something about how Graff sees Ender and the other children) who will command the human fleet to victory, and he spends much of the movie manipulating events against Ender’s favor in an attempt to “toughen him up.”
“He can never think anyone will help him,” Graff tells the much more sympathetic psychologist Major Anderson (Viola Davis, The Help) in one of their many thought-provoking, often-philosophical discussions about the treatment of the children. However, Ender needs little toughening, as he begins the film as a disconcertingly tough child, which is partially what earns him Graff’s favor.
After brutally beating a sore-losing bully at school who attempted to assault Ender, the young protagonist justifies his seemingly excessive violence by saying that he did not just want to win that fight, but all the other fights to come, too—he wanted the bully and his friends to leave him alone for good. Graff, encouraged by the response, takes Ender to Battle School, the space-station on which the children are put into different ‘armies’ and forced to battle one another in war games, which are basically portrayed as large-scale laser-tag fights in zero-gravity.