Based on the popular novel comes Ender's Game, your typical boy-meets-girl, boy-becomes-army-commander-against-a-race-of-ant-aliens-in-space story.
It certainly took a while for this one to get made but I guess with the success of The Hunger Games, it was only a matter of time before they actually gave it a go. That Ender's Game is a 12A is both surprising and not all that surprising since, although the source material has its brutal moments, studios need to sell it to kids as well as adults so they were never going to bump it up to a 15 or more. Not that the film is devoid of any dark stuff but it's much more implied than it is in-your-face. The young actors are also older than in the book, I understand, thereby making their cruel environment not quite as scary. If you don't know, the film is set 50 years after a war between humans and Formics (alien ant things) and sees a young boy called Ender (Asa Butterfield) get recruited by Harrison Ford's Colonel Graff for training in a space station where he would learn to battle the Formics should any further attacks take place. Ender is especially smart and has a strong, tactical mind, which prompts Graff to believe him to be exactly the leader he's been looking for. We follow Ender as he goes through zero gravity training and slowly but surely differentiates himself from the other young trainees. In a sort of Lord Of The Flies fashion, he clashes with the other kids and starts establishing himself as someone to respect and not mess with. The cast, which includes True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin and good old Ben Kingsley, who is shockingly (spoilers) NOT the villain in this (though, that's debatable), does pretty well despite the odd weird-sounding line. I do like how Butterfield's Ender, even though he's meant to be the film's hero, still projects a sociopathic Edward Norton-in-Fight Club type of vibe that's refreshingly slightly disturbing.
The film looks great, you can tell that they really wanted it to be a big-ass blockbuster to rival Hunger Games and went for it, budget-wise. Unfortunately, this might mean that the film didn't do well enough to warrant a sequel but here's hoping it did. The only parts of the film that look a bit goofy take place inside a video game so that's fair enough. Watching the movie, you can tell it's based on something that's richer, much more developed and much harsher. The film's been criticised for being rushed and, to a certain extent, that's true. Ender goes from trainee to commander in what feels like a week and we're never shown what this post-WWIII world is like. The themes the story brings up are fascinating so it would have been nice to explore more of them: propaganda, paranoia, blurred morals, all interesting stuff they could have probably done more with. I can only judge the film as a film, not so much as an adaptation, so although I've heard there are occasional changes from the book, I still enjoyed Ender's Game ok. Yes, the romance they've thrown in feels completely unnecessary, yes, the kids are older and yes, certain parts don't get as dark as they probably should, but this is still a solid, well-made kids' movie which raises compelling ideas, even if it doesn't explore them fully. For those who haven't read the book, the way the film reaches its conclusion will be surprising but, for everyone else, it's unlikely you'll learn anything new.
Overall, Ender's Game's not perfect and you have to be willing to sit through an entire film peopled with kids but it's a decent enough ride with some cool visuals and a lot of good ideas. Oh, and CGI mice. Fans of the book might not enjoy it quite as much as the uninitiated, though.