Ender’s Game

November 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfield
Directed by: Gavin Hood (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Rendition”)
Written by: Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”)

Based on a well-regarded 1985 young adult novel by Orson Scott Card, the film adaptation of “Ender’s Game” has been a long time coming. The plot concerns a future Earth existing in the aftermath of a devastating attack by an insect-like race of aliens known as Formics. To thwart the next attack, the International Fleet trains the world’s children in an effort to find the next great leader of the armada capable of destroying the Formic threat once and for all. Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford, delivering a halfway-interested performace) believes young cadet Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) to be that child. Ender is shepherded to Battle School by Graff, wherein Ender exhibits a mastery of war games that leads to his being put in charge of the battle to determine the fate of the human race.

While “Ender’s Game” offers a glimpse of a moral compass often missing from space-faring sci-fi, screenwriter and director Gavin Hood never quite manages to get the film going. The whole endeavor feels like a a build up–which I suppose it kind of is, with a series of follow-up novels lined up should this prove to be a hit—and ends up as a dull slog through tropes we just sat through over the course of eight “Harry Potter” movies: the journey of a savior from child to a leader of men. As a result, “Ender’s Game” suffers the same fate as “John Carter,” another long-gestating sci-fi adaptation: it feels like a knock off.

From the first act, Ender’s “chosen one” status is never in doubt. Graff and Major Anderson (a wasted Viola Davis) see something special in Ender through constant surveillance—though the movie never really lets us in on what the big deal is with this kid. Sure, it tells us, repeatedly, through Graff, but it doesn’t show us why. His victories seemingly come too easily. His breeze through Battle School feels rushed and incomplete, problems undoubtedly the result of cramming a lengthy novel into two hours of screen time. Toss in an obtuse iPad-like game featuring an avatar of Ender’s beloved sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin) running around a strange castle that the film insists is full of symbolism along with some other confusing technology (so children are more capable than adults at commanding a spacecraft remotely, yet those remote vessels still need crews?) and “Ender’s Game” ends up as another anonymous young adult sci-fi snooze.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

May 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston
Directed by: Gavin Hood (“Rendition”)
Written by: David Benioff (“The Kite Runner”) and Skip Woods (“Swordfish”)

It’s no surprise 20th Century Fox wanted to start the new “X-Men Origins” series with the most popular character of the mutant group after the first three installments raked in more than 600 million in the U.S.

In “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which is the first in more than likely a string of prequels to follow (“Magneto” is scheduled for 2011), Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the clawed-one. Director Gavin Hood (“Rendition”) takes us back to the beginning of the superhero’s life when he was a young, sickly boy struggling with the gift/curse with which he was born.

While the back story to Logan AKA Wolverine’s upbringing is noteworthy (we watch him and his half-brother Victor, who later becomes his nemesis Sabretooth, fight their way through years of war and suffering), the script soon stumbles onto an uninspired story of revenge. It’s a played-out theme that should have been left for its predecessors or at least built on a bit more securely.

When Logan turns his back on his unique capabilities and chooses to live his life in Canada as a normal human being with his wife, Victor (Liev Schreiber) gives him six years of freedom before coming to knock at his door and cause problems. Taking a page from “Watchmen,” Sabretooth is picking off his former mutant comrades and decides to punish Logan by killing his wife. (Cue the cliché aerial camera shot of a distraught Jackman screaming in the air as he holds his dead wife in his arms).

This prompts Logan to set out after his bro for revenge, but not before getting help from William Stryker (Danny Huston), the military man who unites the band of mutants at the beginning of the film to search for an indestructible material in Africa. This, of course, is the substance that is later injected into Logan to transform him into Marvel Comics’ icon Wolverine. The event is highlighted with Logan’s jagged claws turning into sleek alloy blades.

From here, the familiar Wolverine is born and begins his journey to find Sabretooth and destroy him. But not before screenwriters David Benioff (“The Kite Runner”) and Skip Woods (“Swordfish”) can introduce (or reintroduce) us to more mutants who, despite their massive following in the comic-book world, sort of bow out without doing much of anything. In essence, characters like Gamit (Taylor Kitsch), Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Agent Zero (David North), feel like trivial cameos amidst some astonishingly terrible special effects. (Hood might as well have left the actual green screen on the set during some scenes. The actors literally look like their running in a studio lot).

Nevertheless, it’s not only the technical flaws that make “Wolverine” so average and dull. Most of the finger-pointing should be directed toward Benioff and Woods for sticking to the safe route rather than giving audiences something they’ve never seen before. Sadly, “Wolverine” falls somewhere in the middle in terms of superhero cinema. It’s where most comic-based blockbusters that make millions go to be forgotten.