Although people who loved the book will find much to love here – it really is a good movie – the potential impact is too soft for the epic it aspires to be.
-Kevin A. Ranson, Movie Crypt
About as good a film as you can squeeze out of a morally complex source work given today’s studio environment.
-Mark Keizer , Alt Film Guide
Decades in the making, Orsen Scott Card’s “unfilmable” novel has finally hit cinemas. The first screen adaptation of Ender’s Game: Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.
The cinematic version of Ender’s Game is, for good reason, much more streamlined and less meandering than the novel. The backbone and structure of the book are still in tact, essentially with quick cuts between the major scenes and set pieces in place of the smoother transitions the book uses. Understandably, this is about the best the filmmakers could have done considering the massive scale and stakes of the book. There is only so much that can fit in a 115 minute run time and unfortunately a lot of the books charm and whimsy is lost in translation.
As far as portraying the central storyline from the novel as cinematic as possible, the film does a pretty remarkable job. Battles at the Battle School are fully realized and well done. The effects look great across the board, particularly in a recurring all-cgi dream/game sequence that Ender has. The alien race from the book is hidden from view until the very end of the film, which works great. The creature design is unique and incredibly interesting to look at. One relatively minor flaw is the mundaneness of the set design. Battle School and Command School seem like nothing more than endless mazes of intersecting generic hallways and rooms that are shiny and metallic in nature. A little variety to these environments could have gone a long way.
One of the major flaws inherent of adapting a book of this scope to the screen is a loss of detail. This is especially evident in Ender’s Game. All the meat is there but most of the connective tissue is missing. There is virtually zero time for tension, buildup, character development or the exploration of many of the relationships Ender has in the novel. It feels like story beat after story beat, checking each major plot point off until the film is over. What ended up on the screen is very well done, it’s just missing a lot of the little things that made the book great.
Fans of the book will find a lot to like, but it’s not the same experience as reading it for the first time. Those who are unfamiliar with the source material may get confused at times due to the lack of quick nature of the films plotting and lack of explanatory dialogue. The way the ending of the film is written is jarring and somewhat off-putting, being much too tonally different from the scenes immediately prior. Thus, the film finishes on a somewhat sour note.
Ender’s Game is a valiant attempt at adopting the unfilmable novel and is much better than many anticipated. However, a lot of the idiosyncrasies and quirks of the book are left out and do the film no favors. It’s still a solid sci-fi film and worth checking out, who knows when we’ll see another Ender film?
While it’s not the embarrassment to MGM’s cherished, bank-holiday classic that you might have feared, Oz The Great And Powerful is more flat and plodding than it is great or powerful.
-Stephen Carty, Flix Capacitor
The film has lots of computer-generated special effects but no magic.
-Philip French, The Guardian
So it’s been a while since we’ve had a review. You can blame that on the absolutely awful slate of movies that have come out in the first 2 months this year. Other than the latest Die Hard cash grab, Oz is the first notable film to hit theaters in 2013. It should start ramping back up to the spring/summer movie season pretty soon, though.
Now on to Oz: The Great and Powerful:
This is Sam Raimi’s return to big blockbuster filmmaking since the disaster that was Spider-Man 3. Hopefully this franchise has a better fate than that one, but judging on this entry I don’t have a lot of hope.
The very definition of a big budget Disney movie, Oz has a highly touted star cast, ubiquitous marketing and sky high expectations. Judging by it’s opening weekend take, it’s going to meet those expectations and more, but that does not make it a worthy successor to the original, or even a quality film.
Supposedly some kind of prequel to the 1939 classic (can you have a prequel to a dream?), Oz: The Great and Powerful attempts to explain the origin of the wizard himself: where he came from, how he got there, how he came to power, etc. Except it does this without any of the magic of the original.
This film has a lot of problems, many of which are rooted in it’s completely disjointed screenplay. It lacks any sort of momentum or pace until the third act. Dialogue is clunky and forced. Some events occur solely to advance the plot and make no sense in the context of what the character’s motivations are. I actually came away with more questions than answers about what was going on:
- Why would the citizens of Oz be amazed by Thomas Edison’s electricity when everything is already powered by magic?
- Is the kinetoscope really that impressive or scary when witches in bubbles and flying monkeys exist?
- What’s the deal with the Zach Braff monkey, is he related to the evil baboon ones?
- What’s with the apple turning witches green? Why do these witch sisters all hate each other?
- Why do a few random characters from Kansas show up as characters in Oz?
The last one is particularly nagging. This makes sense in the original film, as Oz was Dorothy’s dream. Oz: The Great and Powerful isn’t a dream though, right?
Despite all the issues mentioned above, this movie is visually pretty incredible and probably merits a watch on its imagery alone. There is some outstanding cgi work done here along with some great creature effects and designs. The porcelain doll character was particularly well done. Also, fantastic work on the world design of Oz. This film is full of beautifully designed landscapes, scenery and setpieces. Extermely varied and colorful, if Oz has one thing going for it, it’s never dull to look at.
Overall, this film is not very good. It doesn’t hold a candle to the magic and charm of the original and often feels like it was just churned out within the studio system to make the most money possible. However, it is a visual feast and has some well executed 3D effects. If you like to watch pretty moving pictures, check it out. If not, skip it and watch the original.
Welcome to FilmFire, our movie review blog.
We have a movie loving crew here, and a typical Monday morning involves discussions of our favorite current movies. One day someone joked that we should create a movie review blog and laughingly called it FilmFire. The name and the idea stuck.
So here’s our little piece of the Internet devoted to something a little more exciting than insurance.
We hope you enjoy.