Overall very good
I saw Ender's Game last night with Shauri (and the Rackhams - it was very cool to have our friends in the row in front of us). It mostly met expectations, which for me were very high. I was happy with the acting except for Abigail Breslin; I've seen her in other films and she didn't seem to be herself here. Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, and Ben Kingsley all did very well, and Viola Davis (The Help) was perfect for her role; after seeing her play Major Anderson with such controlled emotion and inner torment, I completely agree with the decision to cast the role as female. Ender's parents were completely forgettable, as they also were in the book, so that's okay. I was very pleased with the visual effects and the music. My main complaint was that the film moved too quickly compared to the book, which is something you'll always find in the film format. Things that took weeks or months to accomplish in the book took days in the film, and you get 1 scene per story piece, with no taste for repetition. For example (spoiler alert), you get 1 Salamander army battle, you get 1 Dragon army battle, you get 1 classroom scene, you get one practice session. If you had even had a short montage showing a couple Dragon army battles interspersed with short glimpses of practice sessions, you would have had more of a sense that they had to earn their way to greatness rather than the impression we have: that they only have 1 battle, they win it, and then Ender gets shipped off to the next phase in his training. Of course do do this, you probably would have needed to either make it a 3 hour movie or split it in 2 films. There were a few major changes in the story toward the end (with the use of Dr. Device, and with the location of Command School, for example). Little changes like whether or not Ender could see his commanders don't affect the real story, but these had a large impact. I can't see that they had any good reason other than condensing the story for a film format, but they did work well with one exception: when we learn that the invasion fleet has 28 days left til it reaches the Bugger world, and then Ender gets shipped out to Command School, you had better be sure that the location of Command School makes sense for the speed of technology that is available. Card never presents the reader/viewer with faster-than-light travel, in fact he's explicit in his writings that nothing faster than near-light speed is available in most of the books, which is the whole cause for Ender being 3000 years old in book 2 *relative to Earth*, because he has been hopping around the universe at near-light speed for 3000 years, and time goes on for the rest of humanity, causing him to seem unaged due to relativistic effects. You don't freeze time when you put your hero on a transport and ship him to Command School, the clock keeps ticking for everyone *except* him, not the other way around, and it was very disappointing to see the filmmaker/scriptwriter get this detail wrong, when it's so important to the Enderverse story. There was one more major change with the Hive Queen that didn't have to be made and didn't make sense entirely, but I won't comment further on that because it would give away the ending. Overall, I am very pleased with the film, and it has left me with a lot to ponder. It sparked a discussion between Shauri and I about what hurtful challenges (spiritual and emotional, not physical) our kids encounter in public school, and whether it would be best to consider homeschooling more of them next year. The actor playing Ender (Asa Butterfield) reminded us both a lot of our son Cathan, who had a horrible experience yesterday while waiting to be picked up after school, with some 8th grade boys and girls loudly telling really nasty, crude, ugly things to each other. He was so upset by it that he was in tears on the way home. Adelaide, who is 2 years older, commented that she's only been in public school for 2 years, but she's heard some extremely nasty things; she feels badly that Cathan, who is so tenderhearted, has been in public school for 4 years and probably has heard worse. That experience, coupled with watching a movie that shows kids being toughened up in a harsh environment away from their parents, prompted us to rethink how much we want to expose our children to the garbage that's inherent to schools. Back to the film: I recommend seeing it. I would caution you about taking anyone younger than 10, but it appears that it was intended for an audience at least that young. They kept the language very clean. They go very light on the violence that is found in the book, making it mild by comparison, but you still see some fighting between Ender and the two main bullies he has to defend himself against. I would recommend discussing afterward topics of genocide, empathy, when and how it's okay to defend yourself, sibling rivalry and sibling closeness, and the morality of authority (such as when it's ethical to disobey an order). Some studies have shown that a large percentage of our high school graduates don't understand what a moral dilemma is, so this would be a good time to discuss them. Overall, I would give Ender's Game 4 and a half stars.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence