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Movie Review

Ender's Game

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family Teens Adults
Sci-Fi Action Adventure Fantasy Drama Adaptation IMAX
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 1, 2013 (wide—3,350+ theaters)
DVD: February 11, 2014
Copyright, Summit Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment Copyright, Summit Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment
Aliens (extraterrestrials)

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Are we alone in the universe? Answer

Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer

questions and answers about the origin of life


Teen Qs—Christian Answers® for teenagers
Teens—Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Featuring: Hailee SteinfeldPetra Arkanian
Abigail BreslinValentine Wiggin
Harrison FordColonel Hyrum Graff
Asa Butterfield … Ender Wiggin
Moises Arias … Bonzo
Ben KingsleyMazer Rackham
Viola DavisMajor Gwen Anderson
Andrea Powell … Theresa Wiggin
more »
Director: Gavin Hood—“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Tsotsi,” “Rendition”
Producer: Summit Entertainment
OddLot Entertainment
more »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

“Ender’s Game” begins by recounting the alien invasion that came perilously close to destroying Earth fifty years earlier. The military then determined that the only way to survive another alien attack was to actively seek out and train the best and the brightest children to be the military strategists and commanders of the future. As the film opens Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) has identified Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) as Earth’s best hope.

Young Ender is intelligent and very confident, but is not ego driven and actively seeks to avoid confrontations. So, from Ender’s point of view, Colonel Graff does the worst possible thing when he singles him out as “the best” candidate right in front of the other cadets. Graff does this in order to isolate him and drive Ender to be the leader he needs to be in the highly competitive, and, at times, even blood thirsty orbiting training station aptly named “Battle school.”

Ender learned, by growing up with an almost homicidal brother, to face threats head on, decisively, quickly, and this, coupled with his ability to identify the single best strategy in any situation, allows him to rise quickly through the ranks, making friends and enemies alike in the process. The friends he wins by his talent, convictions, humor and by his strong sense of empathy. His enemies are overcome because Ender understands them, their motivations, and, in the process, their weaknesses. Graff recognizes this ability of Ender’s is what is needed most of all if they are to survive, let alone win, the upcoming second alien invasion.

Objectionable Issues

Violence: Heavy. Ender beats his enemies by whatever means are available—viciously pummeling with blunt objects, scalding water in the showers and fists. He is not above kicking an enemy when he is down, and some blood is seen during one violent altercation. As he is then forced to explain why he did this, he admits his objective was “not just to win that fight, but all the ones that would come after.” One enemy is accidentally sent into a coma during another fight. While playing a game simulation, Ender causes his rodent avatar to burrow through the eye socket of an animated enemy. Lastly, one should consider that these children, while practicing war games against the aliens, are effectively practicing genocide time and time again.

Language: Mild. Curses are limited to some derogatory references, such as “crap,” “smart a**,” “balls” and two (2) instances of a “lesser” Spanish curse for an illegitimate child. One time a cadet calls out another student, saying that their mother cheated and that’s why he looks like a plumber, but this is the only instance of innuendo in the film.

Sex/Nudity: None. Although the cadets, both girls and boys, sleep in the same quarters, they are dressed appropriately and told at the outset that showering/bathroom facilities are separated according to gender and that absolutely no breaking of the rules will be tolerated. Ender makes friends with the more experienced cadet named Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), but it is a close friendship similar to the kind of brotherhood forged by fellow soldiers and proves to be a strong but plutonic bond.

A word about authority: as Graff points out, Ender has a problem with it. Throughout the film, it is clear that Ender is prone to question authority, but it is in the context that he is justified in that defiance. Keep in mind, while this is not a proper child rearing technique, that this is also part of what Colonel Graff wants, to a certain extent.


“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice… ” —Proverbs 24:17

In a gut-wrenching scene, Ender is forced to defend himself against a bully and accidentally injures him severely. Just as Proverbs instructs all of us how to be righteous, he does not gloat but is very distraught and concerned only for his well-being, reminding us also of what our Savior Jesus Christ himself asked of us:

“But I tell you who hear me: love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” —Luke 6:27

When Ender first arrives, another new recruit, Bernard, immediately opposes him. Yet, when Ender is given the responsibility of putting together his own team, he picks his former enemy. When asked by Bernard, “Why?” Ender explains that he believes he can be an asset to his group and then asks Bernard, “Am I wrong?” Of course, Bernard says “no,” and a new and loyal teammate is born. Ender is always sharing the credit whenever he can and elevates even his former rivals and, in this case, earns one of God’s many promises to the righteous.

“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” —Proverbs 16:7

The movie starts with a quote from Ender that I believe offers a telling glimpse into his psyche, as it reveals both his strength and greatest virtue: “In the moment when I truly understand my enemy… well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.”

Based on the best selling sci-fi classic book of the same name, the movie captures much of what made Ender’s Game a classic, namely the story of an outcast child who, despite being subjected to both physical and mental abuse, retains a just and honorable heart. A hero who avoids confrontations when possible, but, as his motto suggests, in the process empathizes with his enemy so much that he can almost feel their pain, even as he destroys them.

Asa Butterfield does an excellent job portraying the anguished but truly heroic title character. The special effects for the battle room and war games are impressive and compelling enough that I wish I had seen this in IMAX format. The directors’ expansion of Colonel Graff’s role, played gruffly and perfectly by Harrison Ford, frankly made the untellable story of Ender possible.

Conflict and war appear to be glorified, but rest assured the film’s concluding message and emotional payoff is both astonishing and worthy of the journey. The biggest concern for families will be the violence, and for younger kids I agree some scenes are too frightening and not appropriate. For the rest, I enthusiastically recommend this gripping film with a big heart, as well as the positive discussions I believe will take place after watching “Ender’s Game.”

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild—“My G*d” (1) / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Words will never be able to express how surprised and how much I was impressed by “Ender’s Game.” “Ender’s Game” was a movie I had debated for a while in my head, to see or not to see. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan (except for “Star Wars”), so my initial reaction was a “no.” But, I caved, as I pretty much do often, and I saw it and was shocked at how impressive and well rounded this film was.

Yes, content wise there’s violence (what do you expect when it’s a sci-fi film?), but that’s the extent of it. I think this film, with a little editing, could have gotten a PG rating even. Performances were top notch by Asa and Harrison Ford (whom I’ve come to enjoy since the movie “42”). Even as I write this, I’m still shocked, and for once it’s in a good way. I can’t wait to add “Ender’s Game” to my DVD collection.

I’m looking forward to a sequel, as I’m sure there will be one. If you have the money to spare, go see it! If you have an IMAX, see it in that format too, like the reviewer says. Will be worth every penny…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Alexander Malsan, age 23 (USA)
Positive—Very clean teen-friendly movie! Didn’t notice any bad language; no mention of God’s Name in vain (correct me if I’m wrong!) no sex, only clean fighting. Very colorful, impressive sci-fi movie and good IMAX value for money. I had never read the book and still don’t plan to after seeing this movie.

Couple of things that confused me and not a spoiler alert… the fighting and simulated fighting seemed chaotic and with many bodies all floating in zero gravity, no one seemed to get hit much! Also, the hero went from tearful boy to strong “manly” leader, to crying boy to leader a bit too much. Overall good! Great young actors!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Christopher Winter, age 58 (USA)
Positive—I liked this movie. I have not read the books, nor has my 11 year old. I liked the moral fiber in the character—he could feel when he hit someone, the pull of that behavior. He said it made him feel like his brother. But he was bothered by it. He didn’t want to hurt. He did so in self defense in the film. He had compassion for the “enemy” and didn’t want to kill for killings sake. I liked that he was a “soft” boy as he was called, and his leadership skills and strategic mind helped him grow as a person.

My adult cousin, who did read the book, said this happens much slower in the book. There was some violence—Ender got into a fight defending himself twice, one with dire consequences. It was a good teen film with nothing sexual and no foul language.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Andrea, age 41 (USA)
Positive—This film brings up questions regarding the “ethics” of war, however one may define war. In view of the retrospective “promises” that Obama made regarding his socialized healthcare system, I find this movie very coincidentally timely. I would say that the film is worth the time and money and will be enjoyed even by those that are not huge sci-fi fans. For fear of spoiling the story I’ll leave my observations at this except to say that I’ve been much more entertained by the deception portrayed in the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Bob C., age 50
Positive—Overall, I liked the movie. However, I wish movies didn’t feel like they have to subtly insert a good Muslim character. There was no need for the Arabic reference, and, to me, it felt forced. Also, the ending was not satisfying. However, up until the end, it was well-paced, visually interesting and essentially free of inappropriate content. I did like the reference made that the boys and girls are not to enter the other’s bathrooms (admittedly it is sad that notice has to be given). It is an entertaining movie that will spark good discussion.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—C. Nelson, age 53 (USA)
Positive—I didn’t know anything about the movie before I went to see it, I just heard from a friend that it was pretty good. I thought the acting was very good and the film making was cool. However, in my opinion, the story line could have used a little improvement. The main reason I was so impressed by this film was that I couldn’t find many issues that were upsetting, biblically. There are a few instances where the children fight, but it is clear who is right and wrong, also it is important to note that Ender does not intend to injury others and is repentant of his error.

Another great aspect of the movie is that there is very little swearing, it is friendly listening for all members of the family (something you just don’t get very often in Hollywood anymore.)
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Shand, age 23 (USA)
Neutral—First of all, let me say I am not White and [I am] from Kerala, India, so you will not misunderstand what I am saying. “Ender’s Game” could be a good movie, as it has a strong ethical element. But you should also know that this is another mainstream Hollywood, political-themed movie. If you look at the recent movies, they are mostly metaphorical of the “evil West,” I am an Indian, so I am not “crying wolf” every time I see a movie. But the self-vilification of the West through movies is horrifying. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kurian Thomas, age 28 (India)
Neutral—The training of the cadets has next to nothing to do with the actual battles, and this training takes up about 4/5th of the movie. Their team tactics in physical training are sound and driven at creating bonds between team members, all of which is important, but not exactly relevant to the computer-game style battle that they engage in to fight their enemies. Why not just train the kids at playing computer games and save a bunch of time?

For those interested in explosions, the big laser beam you see in the trailer is the only time when a large, offensive weapon is used, and although the visuals of an entire planet exploding are interesting, did the whole entire planet really deserve to be destroyed (along with all of it’s other life) in order to wipe out just one species of alien threat living on it? Why not salvage the planet? Blowing up an entire planet is a Darth Vader tactic, the direct opposite of something you would expect Harrison Ford (aka Han Solo) engaging in! more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: none / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Luke, age 31 (USA)
Negative—While this movie has some good leadership lessons and teaches the importance of teamwork, it also includes some elements that could be associated with the occult and the idea that aliens (demonic looking creatures) could be good and friendly. It would seem that at the end of the movie “Ender” establishes some sort of psychokinesis with a demonic looking entity, and decides to dedicate his life to save the species. I didn't particularly like this idea being engraved in the mind of younger children, if not properly explained it could leave an open door to spiritism, or making contact with a “superior” spiritual being to obtain “truth”.

All these examples clearly are demonic in nature. It might be a good idea to talk to your children or teenager before or after watching this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—anonymous, age 48 (USA)
Negative—I totally agree with Kurian Thomas on his review. This movie is nothing but “politically correct” trash. At the end they save the humans from the alien race, but instead of that being a good thing they treat it as if it is the most vile that could have happened. It disgusted me, and I’m sad to see so many positive reviews on here. The movie’s undertone is that the civilized world (America, the West) are the war mongering barbarians that cause all the death and destruction. I’m so sick of movies like this, but the sad part is everyone keeps falling for them. I’m thankful for people like Kurian who can see the truth.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—James, age 28 (USA)

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