Ender’s Game Parent Guide
Messages about teamwork and developing talents combined with compelling visuals, an engaging story and strong performances make the movie a rare find that may be suitable for tweens and teens.
Parent Movie Review
Based on a popular book authored by Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game feels like a combination of The Hunger Games (where adults use children to play out their war games) and the classic novel Lord of the Flies (a story that leaves youths to work out their own society and pecking order). But Card’s plot is jettisoned into space.
As is often the case in sci-fi tales, a futuristic Earth has been attacked by aliens. Fortunately mankind was able to ward off the invaders, but not without huge costs and the growing concern they will return. Preparing for the next confrontation military leaders are looking for innovative combat ideas to fight the ant-like enemy’s swarming techniques. They believe their only chance of acquiring such prowess will be to tap the talent of the very youngest members of society. Embracing the philosophy that playing video games improves strategic abilities, adults equip every adolescent with a tablet device where he or she engages in war games in a virtual world.
One of the most promising players is a smaller boy named Ender (Asa Batterfield). His exceptional abilities catch the attention of both a classmate named Stilson (Caleb J. Thaggard) and a high-ranking military official, Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford). For the competitive Stilson, losing to Ender’s creative strategies during their battles is more than the bully is willing to endure. But when he attacks Ender after the game, the diminutive boy uses similar cunning to get the much larger Stilson on the floor. Then he continues to kick and beat him, even though Stilson is already defeated. It is this latter action that scores big points with the Colonel. Ender is disturbingly determined not only to subdue his enemy but also to try and eliminate him. (Unlike Graff, some viewers may feel Ender’s zealous rage over his adversary extends too far.)
As a result of the altercation Ender is chosen to join an elite group of youth in space who are preparing for the next extraterrestrial strike. These warriors-in-training repeatedly practice using simulated conflicts. Quickly moving up the command ranks, Ender maintains a firm hand while surprisingly, given his past conduct, managing to show compassion for those he works with.
Audiences familiar with the novel may or may not be pleased to discover this big screen version sanitizes much of the violence. The screenplay takes measures to ensure we know Stilson, and other characters that meet Ender’s wrath, will recover from the injuries he inflicts. The book on the other hand describes their deaths in some detail. This toned-down approach, along with infrequent language and sexual content may make this film more accessible for young audiences than the original. Yet true to the author’s vision, both versions present Ender and his crew with some heart wrenching consequences.
Ender’s Game offers messages about teamwork, as well as developing and recognizing the talents of individuals. These themes combined with compelling visuals, an engaging story and strong performances make the movie a rare find that may be suitable for tweens and teens. Still, parents will want to be ready to discuss appropriate ways of dealing with bullying and the realities of war. There is also the possibility a few young recruits might think they have found the perfect justification for spending hours playing video games. After all, you never know when we’ll need to be ready to fend off an alien attack.Directed by Gavin Hood. Starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld, Ben Kingsley. Running time: 114 minutes. Theatrical release November 1, 2013. Updated May 28, 2016
Rating & Content Info
Why is Ender’s Game rated PG-13? Ender’s Game is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material.
Violence: Young characters often engage in verbal conflicts, some of which escalate to fights. The protagonist is the target of bullying by classmates and an older brother. A bully, along with other cohorts, provokes another boy and challenges him to a fight; the boy accepts and, after hitting the bully with an object and knocking him to the floor, continues to kick and hit him. Later an adult mentor rewards him for this behavior. A male sibling pushes his smaller brother on to a bed and begins to strangle him with his hands, but eventually lets go. After a verbal altercation two boys begin fighting in a shower room; one boy hits his head on the floor causing severe trauma; we later see him receiving medical help. Children are often placed in harms way and are subjected to verbal military discipline in a society where adults are relying on children to fight battles against an alien enemy.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Language: A crude male anatomical term is heard.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated May 28, 2016
Ender’s Game Parents' Guide
A character in this movie says, “The way we win matters.” Is defeat a good thing, regardless of what it may cost? What does Ender learn about his enemy? How does the attitude toward the enemy differ between adults and children?
Is there a lesson in this film about killing in a virtual world (like a video game) versus in reality? How were video games used to prepare these young soldiers? Do you think video games can desensitize us to violence in reality?
How does Ender deal with bullies? Do you think he goes too far? Why do you think the creators of this movie chose to reduce the explicit violence detailed in the novel? How does violence on the printed page differ from visual violence on a movie screen?
The most recent home video release of Ender’s Game movie is February 11, 2014. Here are some details…
Home Video Notes: Ender’s Game
Release Date: 11 February 2014
Ender’s Game releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy) with the following extras:
- Deleted/Extended Scenes with Audio Commentary with Director Gavin Hood
- Feature-length Audio Commentary with Producers Gigi Pritzker and Bob Orci
- “Ender’s World: The Making of Ender’s Game” 8-part featurette