Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.
Gavin Hood’s adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s ‘Ender’s Game‘ is everything I wanted it to be and more. I’ll admit, judging by the trailers to this film, I didn’t quite see how this would work, and I even thought it didn’t look the least bit good. But ten minutes into the film, I knew I was dead wrong. And not only wrong, but this might be one of my favorite films of the year, and might be one of the best sci-fi films ever made. I know, that’s a strong statement to make, but I stand by it. This visually stunning film, along with its great performances and story have created one hell of a fine film, that I sure hope will make enough money to warrant a sequel. Because after watching this two hour sci-fi opus, I wanted more…immediately.
‘Ender’s Game‘ takes place in an unidentified future Earth, where a short while ago, aliens showed up in the sky. Naturally, Earth attacked, and all things went to hell when the aliens swarmed Earth, almost destroying humankind. Luckily for us, a fighter pilot named Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), figured out a way to get the aliens off our planet. But the governments became to scared and started preparing for the aliens to come back and retaliate.
Now some fifty years after the aliens came and went from Earth, we meet Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin’, the youngest of three in a world where population control is at an all-time high. However, at Ender’s young age of ten, he has a rare gift that has him able to analyze any situation and successfully achieve the best outcome possible. It’s like he’s the best chess player in the world, but with real life, as we see him defeat his school bully, but then still brutally attacks him while he’s on the ground, and then explains that he, “wanted to win the fight, and all fights after that.” This is a trait Col. Graff (Harrison Ford) is looking for in his training network.
Come to find out, the government now believes that children have better intuition and make better decisions than adults, and with their video game playing skills, they can fly ships and evade enemies easily. So now there is a giant space station that hovers above Earth where selected kids go to train to be fighters against these aliens. And Col. Graff thinks Ender might be the sole leader to lead the entire army to defeat these aliens. A lot of the film is set in a type of bootcamp in space and is very similar to ‘Harry Potter‘, where kids are in a special school and divided into teams where they are constantly learning and competing against each other. They even have team colors and names. You can’t say this stole from ‘Harry Potter’ though, as ‘Ender’s Game’ was written a couple of decades before the magical world of Harry Potter.
Not only do the higher ups in the army like Ender for his skills, but that he seems to possess certain traits equally that kept his brother Peter (the violent sociopath) and sister Valentine (the caring peaceful girl), played by Abigail Breslin out of this academy. And it’s here that we see Ender (Asa Butterfield) struggle with the task he has been given, which is basically to commit genocide on an alien race. But as he says and has a unique gift for, he can always tell and knows what his enemies are thinking and believing, and when he finds this out, hate turns to love. Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), a girl in the academy he meets sticks by his side and helps him along the way.
The epic climax and twist will blow you away, if you already haven’t read the books, and the actors pull it off very well. There could have been so many moments in the film where situations could have been handled poorly, but instead were executed by talented people and garnered excellent reactions inside the theater. Harrison Ford has done the best acting job here than he’s done in the past several years. He owns this role. Plus it’s great to see him in space again. Butterfield does and amazing job of being a constant emotional wreck, but always steps up to the plate when he has to. Viola Davis, Steinfeld, Kingsley, and Breslin all turn in good performances as well.
The special effects are stunning as well here. The picture is on an epic scale and is always beautiful, specifically the space station where the kids train. The music score is also impressive and always adds so much emotion and suspense to each scene. ‘Ender’s Game‘ will truly satisfy every sci-fi fan and will leave them clamoring for more. I know it did for me.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Ender's Game' comes with an UHD 4K Blu-ray Disc as well as standard 50GB Blu-ray Disc and a Digital Download code. There is an insert for the digital download code. The discs are housed in a hard black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
The previous standard blu-ray version looked incredible, video-wise, as you can see here, so I was curious as to how much of an upgrade in color and detail this new UHD disc had. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. Researching the source material for the film, it says that 'Ender's Game' has a 2K master format and a 5K source format, which brings us to this 4K format.
The biggest difference or upgrade I saw with this release on the UHD version was the richness and boldness in the colors. Every shade of color stands out nicely. Notice the different shades of blues on throughout the spaceship an even in the uniforms. They simply pop off screen. The yellow uniforms as well show a deep richness that was not there before. One of my favorite scenes in the film is when the kids are in the spherical zero-gravity Battle Room, training and playing their game intense game.
The colors of the planet in the background is phenomenal and rich with light blues, greens and browns, all with excellent contrast. The rustier colors on the alien surface planet look richer as well here with a bigger dose of color saturation to give a more lifelike presence. Black levels are deeply satisfying as well with the blackness of space and dark lit spaceship interiors looking natural. There is a slight upgrade in detail as well with excellent stitching lines in the wardrobe and every individual hair and wrinkle showing up on Harrison Ford's face. The detail in tattoos on Ben Kingsley's face is phenomenal as well and almost looks three-dimensional.
The background shots of the ship and rocky terrain of the alien planet show greater detail as well here, noticing some of the smaller elements on the ships's computers. There was a slight bit of softness to a few scenes, mainly the heavy CGI scenes, but it wasn't anything to get up in arms about, making this UHD video presentation a great one.
This UHD release of 'Ender's Game' comes with an upgraded Dolby Atmos track, where I used a 7.1.2 Atmos speaker setup with the normal 7.1 surround and two overhead speakers, plus a subwoofer powering the soundscape. The standard Blu-ray version has an excellent 7.1 mix already, but adding the Atmos to the mix is next level here.
'Ender's Game' sound design is powerful and packs a punch at every turn, no matter if the kids are throwing punches themselves or there is a battle in space, all of it sounds incredible and fully immerses you into the chaos. One thing I noticed was the amount of bass that was added to each scene that rumbled from start to finish in the heavier action sequences. When the kids are in the zero-gravity battle room, the overhead speakers come in full force with kids flying overhead. It sounded natural and powerful.
The directionality of all of the gun blasts and voices were excellent and the ambient noises of people chattering or normal spaceships sounds were well balanced and flowed nicely through the rear speakers. Dialogue of course was always crystal clear and easy to follow, even in the softer scenes, and always free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills. This Dolby Atmos track will definitely give your speakers a workout. It's loud and on point with a very wide dynamic range, leaving this Atmos track something to listen to.
There are NO new extras on the UHD disc, but on the standard Blu-ray version, all of the extras are imported over, which you can see below from Shannon T. Nutt's review of the film.
Audio Commentary with Director Gavin Hood – Despite only listing an 'Audio Commentary' on the back of the box, there are actually two commentary tracks on 'Ender's Game', the first of which is a solo one with the director. This is a so-so commentary that begins with Hood just telling us what the story is about and what the characters are thinking (which I've never found appealing in a commentary). He eventually starts to tell us about some of the effects and sets, but still goes back to talking about the characters' mindset when he's not discussing technical aspects. Sadly, there's very little here in terms of talking about the actors themselves or any other interesting behind-the-scenes stories.
Audio Commentary with Producers Gigi Pritzker and Robert Ocri – Thankfully, as disappointing as Hood's commentary turns out to be, Pritzker and Orci's commentary is everything I love to hear on a track. Of course, it helps that two people are here, so they can bounce interesting questions off each other, which leads to a lot of interesting content. If you only have a chance to listen to one of the two audio commentaries, this is the one you want to hear.
Deleted/Extended Scenes (HD, 11 min.) – A collection of six deleted and/or extended moments from the movie, with optional commentary by Gavin Hood. There are some interesting moments here that got cut from the final film, the majority of which seem to be because they hint a little too much at the 'surprise' ending.
Theatrical Trailers (HD, 4 min.) – The two theatrical trailers that were released to promote the film, both clocking in at roughly two minutes each. (Note: while the movie itself is presented in the 2:40:1 ratio, both these trailers are at the 1.78:1 ratio.)
Ender's World: The Making of 'Ender's Game' (HD, 49 min.) – A entertaining eight-part (which can be watched separately or all together) look at the making of the film. The parts consist of 'Journey to the Big Screen'; 'Recruiting the Troops'; 'Ender in Zero-G'; 'Battle School Revealed'; 'The Mind Game'; 'Behind Enemy Lines'; 'The Alien World'; and 'Ender's Mission Complete'.
Inside the Mind Games (HD, 4 min.) – This featurette doesn't contain any dialogue, just footage of the video games that Ender plays during the movie from previsualization to the final film version.
'Ender's Game' the film is a highly entertaining adaptation of Orson Scott Card's book. Although, quite a bit is left out of the film from the book, it transfers well on screen and leaves room for more films. It's an energetic and well acted movie and is fun sci-fi experience for almost everyone. The new UHD video and audio upgrades are excellent with richer and deeper colors and a slight uptick in detail. The Dolby Atmos track is incredible and packs the bass from start to finish. This version of 'Ender's Game' is highly recommended!