The adaptation of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is on track for an opening take of only around $27-$30 million this weekend, which puts it on par with a lot of the original sci-fi feaures out this year. Almost exactly aligned with either After Earth or Elysium, and a tad under both Oblivion and Pacific Rim. At least it is doing far better than its fellow YA adaptations, though its Cinemascore rating of 'B' from audiences indicate this isn't a movie that will have much legs through word of mouth.
That's too bad because Ender's Game is probably the smartest and most visually compelling sci-fi film of the year. I'd say even more than Europa Report (and definitely more than Gravity, which I don't classify in the genre anyway). And while some of that is thanks to Card's original novel, a lot of the credit goes to writer-director Gavin Hood. That makes it a particularly unexpected success given that he previously directed a hugely disappointing X-Men movie (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and one of the weakest Oscar winners in the Best Foreign Language Film category ever (Tsotsi).
I was especially amazed at how well the movie treats the idea of blurring video game violence and real violence and children's comprehension and response to the distinction. It's also quite talky considering how much of the space action is given precedence in the trailers -- probably one of the things causing audiences to give it a low exit-poll score. And the way it ends is impressively respectful to the themes rather than viewer expectations, both in the hero's response to the climax and the subsequent epilogue, which plays like more of a place for characters and audiences to further contemplate events than the sequel setup it could seem to be on the surface.
Ender's Game is one of the most surprising movies of the year for me. Not necessarily one the overall best, but compared to what I'd anticipated -- and I'm not really a fan of the book, for various reasons, so I didn't even have a lot of hope -- I was very happy with how much I enjoyed it. And I really hope there is a sequel. Asa Butterfield is a terrific talent here and it'll be great to see him continue to grow as an actor with this franchise.
I'm curious to see what others thought. There are very mixed reactions to the look and tone of the movie, and it's funny to hear that people either thought it failed in the third act or finally came around at the same point. A lot of how people experience Ender's Game will be based on expectations, whether they've read the source or not. So, it's a good movie to start a discussion around.
What did you think of Ender's Game?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter:
MORE FROM AROUND THE WEB: