Archive for November, 2013

Film Review: Ender’s Game (2013)

November 11, 2013

As a fan of Orson Scott Card’s 1985 novel (click here for story summary), I was very much looking forward to the film adaptation of Ender’s Game, and while I am glad to say that it stays relatively faithful to the source material, it is but a shadow of the masterpiece that is the book. The plot speeds forward extremely quickly, condensing the rigorous training and development of the characters into short sequences or even just lines of dialogue that ultimately squanders the grand scale of the story and leaves you wondering just how much of the movie was left on the cutting room floor.

Obviously, a two-hour movie cannot include every detail, and it is expected for there to be changes, but in this case it seemed that the creative team simply did not include the proper selection of scenes to communicate the stakes of the story and intensity of the situation. For example, in the book, the child soldiers are trained until they are broken, run into the ground by the adult commanders, while in the movie it looks like they’re all just off on an adventure having a bunch of fun at space camp.

Anyway, for what it is, the film looks great, the casting is suitable enough, and it tells the same general story of the book well enough to be recognizable as Ender’s Game. I suppose viewers who haven’t read the book will probably enjoy it a lot more since they will be ignorant of how much of the story was skimmed over, but if you’re a fan of the book, you will probably just enjoy it for the nostalgia of seeing the characters and settings from the book realized on the screen, nothing more.

In the end, this is a decent start for creating adaptations of the material, but I truly hope it is given another shot in the future with more care, and perhaps in a different format that better suits it, like an animated series or television series akin to Battlestar Galactica.


Film Review: How I Live Now (2013)

November 9, 2013

How I Live Now (based on the novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff) is a thriller in the same vein as other British apocalyptic films, such as 28 Days Later and Children of Men, that follows the plight of ordinary British citizens as they fight to survive through the chaos of war.

How I Live Now focuses on a teenage girl named Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) who is sent from New York City to live with her young cousins in England. Daisy starts off apprehensive to the situation but quickly settles in with the group and begins a romantic relationship with her oldest cousin, Eddie (George MacKay). And of course, just as everything is going so well, a nuke goes off in England, and the army invades to whisk them all off to work camps, separating the family in the process. The rest of the movie tells the story of Daisy and her youngest cousin Piper as they fight to survive and make their way back home, hopefully along with cousins Eddie and Isaac, whose stories aren’t shown.

If the aforementioned 28 Days Later and Children of the Men┬árepresent the best of the apocalyptic thriller genre, How I Live Now doesn’t score as high and exists on a much smaller scale, but it succeeds in its tone of intensity and gritty realism, keeping your attention for the majority of the film. It does have some pacing issues, some of the love story scenes between Daisy and Eddie seem a bit forced, and the narration during the ending was a bit heavy-handed, but overall these are small issues that can be forgiven, as the whole of the film is better than the sum of its parts.

Saoirse Ronan’s portrayal of Daisy can be a bit grating at times, as her character was written to be angsty, but throughout the film she grows on you, and it becomes easy to root for her survival. The other young actors do a fine job, with Tom Holland as Daisy’s cousin Isaac being the stand out once again like in The Impossible.

The film has an excellent score, mixing both pop songs and ambient tracks, and is visually very gorgeous, showcasing the rolling hills and large open fields of the English countryside, deeming it worth a watch for its production values alone. It’s not a perfect film, but I found it to be emotionally riveting, beautiful, and entertaining, and for those aspects I recommend it, especially for those who can’t get enough of this genre.