Movie Review, Part 2 – Ender’s Game

On Friday I went to see Ender’s Game again, this time on an IMAX screen.

Click here to read my full review of the film.

I want to admit that despite having worked at a major motion picture studio for over five years, I still don’t really get what IMAX is. Is it just a really big screen and great sound? (While we’re talking about what I don’t know, I also don’t know the difference between 3D and Real 3D. And to date, the only 3D movies I’ve seen are: Captain Eo, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter #8.)

I’d initially (and erroneously) assumed that Ender’s Game would be filmed/shown in 3D, so I was actually quite disappointed to discover that it’s only being shown in 2D or IMAX. It was good in 2D, which is how I saw it last Sunday, but man was it GOOD in IMAX.

The sound was so immersive – my seat rumbled during the shuttle’s takeoff, and hearing chatter and explosions from literally all around me made me feel like I was there IN the Battle Room. And the visuals were crystal-clear, making the experience feel as though I were watching it in 3D.

Which leads me to my conclusion that seeing something in IMAX is the best option of them all. Well, for an action film, at least. I doubt it’d make much difference to a rom-com or a documentary.

Other things that stuck out this time around:

  • Sergeant Dap – played by British actor Nonso Anozie (you might recognize him from Game of Thrones or NBC’s Dracula), the character of Dap is a great example of how to do a lot and make an impression (both on the characters and on the audience) with a small role. Also, I really loved the timbre of his voice. I’d love to see him in a starring role.
  • South African influence? Director Gavin Hood is from Johannesburg and got his start directing educational dramas for the South African Department of Health. And there were a lot of things in Ender’s Game that reminded me of the movie District 9, which was directed by Neill Blomkamp, who is also from Johannesburg. I know that there are probably more than just two directors in all of South Africa, but the fact that the two films are similar in style and moral themes makes me curious about life in South Africa and how that influenced the two directors.
  • Pacing – the pacing, as I noted in my previous post, was generally rushed. This second viewing revealed parts where it wasn’t rushed at all that in my opinion could have been trimmed or cut altogether. Maybe I just really want to see another Battle School game, but I still wish Hood had given us more of Ender’s time in Battle School.

I probably won’t see Ender’s Game a third time in theaters, but I am definitely looking forward to a director’s cut and special features.

Have you seen the film? What did you think?

Movie Review – Ender’s Game

The very first thing out of my mouth as the end credits started to roll was, ” it was too short, and I want to see the director’s cut.”

I have been a big fan of the book and the companion books (both the Ender’s Game series and the Shadow series) for many years now (thanks to my brother for the initial introduction), but could never think of a practical way to turn the book into a movie (which is why I didn’t write the screenplay).

So while I love the book(s) and am quite fond of the characters and their story, I also understand the constraints (So. Many. Constraints.) of adapting a beloved novel for the big screen. I spent over five years working in the entertainment industry and I know full well just how many different parts have to work together just to produce a lame duck sitcom, so I can only imagine the enormous job director Gavin Hood must have had with this film. I can’t really think of a better way to adapt the 384-page novel than what he did.

And on the whole, I think he pulled it off.

The film is just under two hours long, and as I mentioned earlier, it felt rushed. I wonder if it would’ve worked better as a miniseries (think: the Battlestar Galactica miniseries in 2004), as there’s certainly a lot of character development and battle school stories that are pretty key to the story. But then I’d worry about greedy television executives wanting to try to make a basic cable show out of it and that would really make a mess of things. So if I had to choose one format, I’d stick with a feature film, but I’d add a few more battle school scenes (the battle room scenes are AWESOME and I’d have loved to see more) and a little more character development with Ender.

The casting was very well done, and for once Harrison Ford didn’t phone in his performance. Viola Davis I’m sure is a great actress, but this part really didn’t have much going on and I think really anyone could have played this part. Both of these characters would have benefitted from a little bit more development.

My brother and I have discussed at length how if Ender’s Game were ever to be a live-action movie that they’d have to change the age of the children. There’s just no way to get a dozen good child actors under the age of 10. Once upon a time Haley Joel Osment would’ve been a great Ender at age 8 or so, but he grew up (as children do, despite what Peter Pan wishes) and that’d really be the problem with casting any child actor – by the time the talent is discovered, as movies often are released months if not years after filming, the child has grown up and is no longer the precocious young boy who sees dead people.

The movie’s production was great. I saw the film on a standard screen at the AMC Promenade in Temecula, CA, and it was easy to see the fantastic special effects, production design, costumes, etc. I was surprised, too, at how good the battle room scenes were. I was expecting the scenes to look heavily CGI, but the folks over at Digital Domain really aced it (read more about their process here). I’m going to see the film again tomorrow on an IMAX screen, so I’ll be sure to add an update with my thoughts on the difference in formats.

And the ending, well, I thought it was quite beautiful.  Like my friend Lindsay said on Facebook (check out her blog if you want to learn stuff and be smarter), I was surprised at the level of depth it managed with the central moral question of the story (details withheld to avoid spoilers if you haven’t read the book or seen the film yet). It’s that moral question and Ender’s answer that drives the story and the rest of the books in the series, and it is what continues to draw me to Ender years after we first met.

Final grade? I give it a solid B. It could have been better, especially with Alfonso Cuarón at the helm, but it is pretty good and I give props to Hood for pulling it all together.


Movie Review: Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

This film makes me so proud to be a part of the Warner Bros. family.

BEAUTIFUL – adjective.  1. Having beauty; having qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind.  2. excellent of its kind.  3. wonderful; very pleasing or satisfying.

Where the Wild Things Are is a beautiful film.

I laughed, I cried, I got scared, and I left the film uplifted.

There was so much love poured into this film – just watch Max (played by Max Records) and you’ll see how safe and cherished he felt while making this film.

If you’ve read the book, you know already know what the movie is about: a little boy who acts out against his mom (“I’ll eat you up!”) and is sent to bed without supper.  A fantastical adventure follows, and Max learns some valuable lessons along the way.  He returns home to find that his mom has set out a warm dinner for him in his bedroom.

The movie builds on the story, adding a big sister and an absent father and fleshing out Max’s relationship with his mom.  The cinematography, camera direction, editing, and music were all perfection.

There is one memorable scene when Max is lying on the floor at his mom’s feet while she does some work on the computer.  She takes a break from her work to encourage her son to tell her a story.  Their sweet exchange, him telling her a story, her typing it out, and their non-verbal communication, was so true to how a child sees the world.  It’s been a while since I was a kid (hey, this old lady turns 27 in December), but working with junior high school students for the past 5 years has tuned me in a bit to what it means to be a child.

Where the Wild Things Are is what it means to be a child.  Everything is fantastical and larger than life (the monsters are huge!), but with a little bit of courage, these big huge problems (or monsters) can become adventures.  “Let the wild rumpus start!”

I also loved that some of my favorite lines from the book are in the film.  Lines like “I’ll eat you up!” and “Let the wild rumpus start!” were favorites of mine, and it was so fun to hear young Max shout these lines to his mother and the monsters, respectively.

I highly recommend this film to any adult, wether you’re a fan of the book or not.  I wouldn’t take anyone under 10 years old, mainly because the film is quite intense at times (okay, I’ll admit it, I was scared) and the pacing of the film might not hold the interest of a younger child.  But anyone junior high age or older will enjoy this film.

Now, “let the wild rumpus start!”

*For additional reviews, click here to read the one at Entertainment Weekly.