Okay, first: I have not read the book.
Now on to my review of the movie.
There’s a good balance here of action and character development. That was one of the things that stood out to me, because there’s a lot of characters in this film. That you get a good sense of most of them even while you retain the feel of a sci-fi action story is important. Some of the action sequences are cool and the tactics are creative. One thing I did note was that sometimes during a strategic piece the talking gets very fast and somewhat technical. I could keep up just fine, but I noticed my sister occasionally shifting restlessly in the seat next to me during these pieces. Some of the other dialogue seems forced enough that I would hazard a guess it’s following the book pretty well.
I did notice a bit of a hole, in that there’s lots of great commentary on morality — including an unusually unannoying implication about the dangers of violent virtual realities — but one of the central plot points, that these kids are so vital to winning the war in the first place, goes largely unexplained. Why kids? Why not gifted adults? How did this come about? I would have liked to know more… Not sure how extensively the book treats this.
The questionable ethics present once the kids are actually there, though, are treated extensively and add to the flow of the story rather than detract from it. One thing I noticed is that it’s discussed that the kids are having problems keeping up thanks to the sleep deprivation and high pressure that’s a part of bootcamp, but you don’t see much evidence of this… You do see one sequence of Ender and the others losing a simulation once, but it seems somewhat inadequate. That can’t be the only time they ever lose a simulation.
Special mention of Asa Butterfield (Ender), who neither spends most of the movie with his face in rigor mortis nor spends most of the movie trying to prove that HE IS AN ACTOR DAMNIT. I don’t usually see that in younger-ish actors, so I was kind of impressed.
It was a good movie. It’s my kind of movie anyway, so I’m kind of biased. It was a good movie and seems like it was based on an interesting book. I was surprised a couple of times. I had a nice time.