Brilliant young tactician Ender Wiggin is called upon to defend earth from nasty foreign invaders — and you know what they say about what makes the the best defense. Not for nothing does space commander Harrison Ford say that "What we need is a Julius Caesar, a Napoleon." But while Asa Butterfield conveys Wiggin's complicated, chilly interior with a brave disdain for mere likability, Ford stumbles as his equally complicated and possibly chillier mentor/advocate/father-figure. All growls and glares and gravel, he's more general than god. Still, the film makes a fine transition from the classroom to the battlefield — interestingly, it's the classroom that involves actual bodies in motion, while the battlefield is all holodecks and drones. And except for a sloppy climactic confrontation, it manages to manifest its concerns with clarity and force. Director Gavin Hood has an eye for a battle scene, and keeps the action clean and clear no matter what the scale of the conflict. With Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin. 2013.

2.0 stars

— Matthew Lickona

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