Ender's Game

One of many last year’s cinematic disappointments was the tepid reception Ender’s Game received stateside (it made just $61 million domestically). Based on the iconic sci-fi novel by Orson Scott Card, the epic tale centers on Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield), a child prodigy who, due to his quick trigger reactions, analytic mind, and ferocious nature may be humanity’s biggest hope at eliminating an alien race called the Formics.

Harrison Ford co-stars as Colonel Graff, Ender’s surrogate father figure and eventual manipulator in their inevitable battle of wits. Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) is Ender’s closest friend Petra, a fellow Battle School student who trains Wiggin how to successfully defeat his foes in zero gravity.

Ender’s Game, a narrative which finds its strength on the complex nature of Wiggin’s motivations, will hopefully find a much wider audience on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s nuanced take on the advantages and perils of waging a preemptive war can be seen as extremely prescient to these times, yet its message of understanding one’s adversary, even in the midst of conflict, is a universal lesson that befits any era.

The Blu-ray’s plethora of special features is another reason to pick up this collection, as it doesn’t chintz on the material.

The extensive featurette Ender’s World: The Making of Ender’s Game breaks down a huge part of the film’s journey, from the original conception of the project to its eventual film premiere. The segments on the featurette are as follows:

  • Journey to the Big Screen
  • Recruiting the Troops
  • Ender in Zero-G (check out the video below to check out this segment)
  • Battle School Revealed
  • The Mind Game
  • Behind Enemy Lines
  • The Alien World
  • Ender’s Mission Complete

Ender's GameThe standalone segment Inside The Mind Games is a three minute plus look on how director Gavin Hood and the special effects team created one of the games that Ender plays on his tablet. While playing this “mind game,” Ender navigates a mouse towards two cups, and to survive his encounter with a monster, he must choose the cup that isn’t filled with acid.

During a recent press day for Ender’s Game that was held at Digital Domain, Hood displayed how this sequence utilized motion capture. In the following photo, Hood, who’s kneeling down, directs a guy in a black suit to mimic the movements of the monster. A screen, which showed how the person’s movements are visually captured in the computer, was also part of the demonstration. Unfortunately, my photography skills are atrocious, so all you get is this picture and a recommendation to check out the Inside The Mind Games featurette.

There are also two audio commentary tracks, one with Hood and the other with producers Gigi Pritzker and Roberto Orci. Most of Hood’s commentary is done in what he described as a stream of consciousness manner, which actually makes the talk feel a lot less scripted and predictable. A military vet himself, the director is most engaged when talking about the themes of Ender’s Game, and he also goes into detail on how a special effects company’s bankruptcy as well as an investor pulling out at the last minute affected the film’s production.

Last, but definitely not least, are a series of deleted scenes (with optional director commentary):

  • Say Goodbye – an extended scene of Ender saying goodbye to his family.
  • A New Recruit – This four and a half minutes scene is a pivotal sequence that establishes Ender’s rivalry with Bonzo (Moises Arias).
  • It’s For His Own Good – An extended sequence dealing with Graff and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) discussing how to deal with Ender.
  • Leadership – A deleted scene with Ender asking Battle School colleague Dink why he’s not a leader.
  • We Need Ender – Extended scene with Ender, who’s recuperating at a rehab center, being visited by his Valentine (Abigail Breslin) and Graff.
  • They Should Know – An important, yet all too revealing conversation between Graff and Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley). If you haven’t seen the movie, do not watch this scene!

Ender’s Game is now out on Blu-ray and DVD.

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posted by Greg Srisavasdi