The stars turned out in Hollywood this week for the premiere of Lionsgate’s spectacular new sci-fi epic, “Ender’s Game.” While hot teen actors Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin were taking a fusillade of photo flashes on the black carpet, Harrison Ford, standing just a few feet from where his own hand and footprints are enshrined in cement in the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theater, was telling Variety that 16-year-old Butterfield is the Han Solo of this film.
He could have invoked Luke Skywalker as well, as Butterfield’s military tactician prodigy, Ender Wiggin, undertakes a young hero’s journey of mythic resonance, and shows a precocious understanding and gravitas. The “Hugo” lead is up to giving as good as he gets from Ford, as his tough commander, and from the film’s other grownup stars, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley.
Supporting cast members also shine as Butterfield’s battle school mates. Moises Arias (“Kings of Summer”) is as unrecognizable to those who know him as his former cheeky “Hannah Montana” character as Miley Cyrus is unrecognizable as Hannah Montana these days.
“Ender’s Game” works as a straightforward action adventure suitable for kids, but also has an unusual depth that will appeal to adults. The filmmakers — director Gavin Hood and producers including Lynn Hendee — have kept intact the widely-admired source material’s insights into the nature of aggression, what makes an enemy, and that loaded idea of “pre-emptive” warfare. (Interesting that Orson Scott Card’s novel was written back in 1985.) Dazzling visuals show Ender’s ingenious battle plays as he and his team prepare for war in a weightless space chamber. Touching and intense by turns, the film will leave audiences thinking as well as moved.
An inter-galactically-themed party at the Hollywood-Highland Entertainment Complex followed the screening. Most of the young cast took to the multicolored, lit-from-within dance floor and showed off some pretty impressive moves. They had much to celebrate.