The littlest soldiers

Asa Butterfield as Ender in "Ender's Game" (Summit Entertainment)
Asa Butterfield as Ender in “Ender’s Game” (Summit Entertainment)

We ask a lot of our children. And I think they know it and we deny it. To my son, “Please stop touching everyone all the time,” while a good lesson that seems easy enough to me, is, “Please disable your natural impulse to hug everyone all the time even though to you hugs are really nice and you don’t understand why everyone doesn’t want hugs every second of every day. And if you don’t stop, you don’t get to play Lego Batman 2 today.”

In “Ender’s Game,” future Earth’s adults ask kids to save the world — children think more quickly and intuitively and defeat video games in the time it takes an adult to figure out what the A button does … wait, which is the A button again? On top of that, children always make better soldiers because, well, they’re children.

In the film, kids live surrounded by reminders of an alien invasion that happened 50 years before; when a group of them is shown the video of the final attack, you can see on their faces that a) they’ve seen it a million times and b) they think it is WICKED AWESOME. They’ve been raised in an environment of fear, where the wolf is always howling at the door and where the only defense is a good offense and a good offense is one that wipes your enemy entirely from existence.
They’ve grown so accustomed to the idea that their way of life is in danger that they accept, almost without question, actions by their government that are meant to create a safer world. Their world, of moms and dads and exactly two kids (the government limits the size of most families), is the normal one and deserves protection by any means necessary.

What’s impressive about the movie is that it so easily could have simply been “Kids Play Really Cool Games in Space.” But it keeps the spirit of the original novel in that it examines how little boys and little girls get turned into soldiers. They watch the videos, they play the games, they go to battle, and no one ever tells them the other guys have moms, too.

Backstory: Orson Scott Card, the author of “Ender’s Game” and a producer on the film, has been vocal about certain opinions of his, opinions many find objectionable. Consequently, some people are uncomfortable financially supporting the movie. Still, I would never recommend that you, say, buy a ticket to “12 Years a Slave” and sneak into “Ender’s Game.” Because that would be wrong.

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Kristen Page-Kirby | October 31, 2013