Review Roundup - I'm doing my part!

ENDER'S GAME (2013)

Asa Butterfield stars as ridiculously named space cadet Ender Wiggin (or is it the other way around? These both sound like bad fantasy monikers) in this mix of teen melodrama and creepy war time dystopia story. There's a lot of war games, training camp (high school) angst and character alienation along the way. It's surprisingly dark at times, and those moments are easily the most interesting parts as the morality of what is being done is questioned and the concerning training methods involved are set out. In a world obviously indoctrinated into preparation for an alien attack, children are drafted into military service for their apparently faster minds and unpredictable thought patterns - though the ease of brainwashing them would seem to be the most obvious factor when the battlefield is controlled by screens and not physical ability. There are some neat visual set pieces and the pacing isn't too bad but whether this is all executed well enough to form a compelling narrative is another question.



The cast are hit and miss as you'd expect from a child actor heavy film, but nobody is distractingly awful. The veterans fare less well and though Harrison Ford has a few good moments he never looks or sounds too pleased to be on camera, perhaps part characterisation and part phoning it in, it's hard to distinguish at times. Later on Ben Kingsley arrives to add a bit of personality but never gets anything notable to do. Butterfield isn't bad in the title role but the protagonist's character arc is a little underwritten which is a shame as his development has a few interesting pitfalls such as violent behaviour in his genes and social problems in his brain. The problem seems to be there is too much material and not enough focus - there's a lot of psychological trauma to be mined, there are hints of what life on Earth has become, war as a game for kids; and these elements could be stronger if they'd pulled it together.

The effects sequences are reasonable with some fun zero gravity moments. However the climactic space battle is like a mix between those magic touch screens in Minority Report and watching someone play Galaga. I have no idea why they chose to portray it with so much on screen display imagery instead of mixing it up with actual battle perspective shots and being able to see what is happening on a smaller scale; it gets tedious incredibly fast. They reuse footage of the first alien attack several times as a propaganda message early on to set the story up, and the dog fight sequence shown there is a lot more impressive. Add to this some mixed messages about what the enemy forces are really planning just before the whole thing is suddenly cut short and the result is unsatisfying. I presume they meant to expand on the idea of two forces clashing because of a failure to communicate, but like the best ideas presented during the film it's never fleshed out properly.

3/5

BONUS REVIEW
MACHETE KILLS (2013)



There's a short teaser done for laughs at the start of this, where the dumb factor is high and it ends quickly enough to warrant a quick smirk - the opposite effect of the film itself. It's hard to understand how the feature itself is done in such a boring way, after all they don't exactly have a lot of material to work with here. Machete kills the bad guys and gets the ladies. That's it. But instead of a quick say 80 minutes or less (it could be less) they drag it out for a lot longer right up to the point where the joke is dead. And it was pretty DOA the last time.

1/5