Tense battle more than just a game

EQUAL parts Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter and Hunger Games, Ender's Game is set in the not-too-distant future, following a space-war with alien creatures called Formics.

Humans have begun to look to bright children, such as Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield, Hugo), to remotely fight their wars.

Enrolled in a military school where his every move is observed and assessed via an injected monitoring device, Ender is selected to train at an off-world battle school, where he practices drone warfare through photo-real video game-like simulations.

Ender's Game is loaded with thought-provoking commentaries on warfare, from the moral dilemma of pre-emptive action to the psychological effects of sending youth into battle, be it physical or remote.

For those who prefer something a little more intellectual over a mindless popcorn flick, Ender's Game is full of fuel for thought.

But, for those more interested in the escapism of films, the real success of Ender's Game is its incredible visual effects, with stunning space sequences to rival Gravity for realism and beautiful other-world colonies that resemble Thor's Asgard.

The 'battle room' is the visual highlight of the Enderverse. A cavernous room in space, with walls of glass revealing the beauty of Earth far below, the battle room plays host to Ender and co. during their training, where the zero-gravity effects are second-to-none.

Children float through the air with absolute believability, and there are some particularly enjoyable sequences where the 'armies' create strategic formations that resemble Cirque du Soleil routines.

Based on a 1985 book, Ender's Game written by Orson Scott Card, the film touches on many issues that are relevant to today's society.

South African director Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) creates an almost confronting atmosphere for the audience, as children are effectively transformed into soldiers.

There are a few moments of shocking violence dotted into the film, which, though not gratuitous in any way, stay with viewers after the credits have rolled.

For a film aimed at 10 to 15-year-olds, Ender's Game is surprisingly mature.

With the exception of a clownish drill sergeant and a peculiar instance of zero-gravity vomit, Ender's Game refuses to infantilise its audience, laying out its challenging themes and moral dilemmas without preaching.

It asks questions of its viewers, of their own propensity towards violence and evil. The cast assembled is top-notch, with Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) bringing his usual gruffness to Major Graff, complemented beautifully by an underused Viola Davis (The Help), the compassionate yin to Ford's driven yang.

Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) sports a New Zealand accent and facial tattoos in his role as the famed Mazer Rackham, a mentor to Ender in the film's final act. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) round out the major players in supporting roles.

Ender's Game is available to rent or buy on Blu-Ray, DVD and digitally from April 4 and is rated M.

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