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Immersed in Movies: Gavin Hood Talks the End-Game Zeitgeist of 'Ender's Game'

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood October 25, 2013 at 12:57PM

The "Ender's Game" director discusses why it's such a timely and provocative movie about technology and violence.
The recruits in "Ender's Game."
The recruits in "Ender's Game."

For director Gavin Hood, "Ender's Game" stands somewhere between his Oscar-winning "Tsotsi" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine": a heady sci-fi adventure about the dehumanizing impact of violent video games and simulated warfare on our youth. Throw in the hot topic of drones, and you could say that time has definitely caught up with Orson Scott Card's acclaimed futuristic novel.

"As a parent, you bring your children into this world and they're faced with massive, accelerating technology," Hood admits. "They watch war on screen in real-time on CNN that is video game-like, and they have video games that are increasingly realistic about war. And this blurring of game and reality is quite disturbing, and drone warfare is the ultimate expression of video game playing. I have twins that are six and it's exciting and frightening to see how they've picked up the new tech."

Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield in "Ender's Game."
Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield in "Ender's Game."

No wonder Hood was so taken with the compelling story of the adolescent Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), who has become a heroic icon to millions. He wields power among his student peers in Battle School through a keen understanding of human nature while mastering advanced computer simulations like a preternatural wizard. However, constant bullying from being a social outcast and the pressure of being the world savior prays on his soul.

Thus, it's a tug of war between violence and compassion for Ender and what fascinates Hood. "What I try to do is seduce the audience with beautiful visual effects into a world where, when you play that final game, it's really fun and you're getting a thrill and you want to win with Ender."

But at what moral cost? There are certainly tactical advantages to simulated warfare in a world where survival comes first and individual needs are secondary, which Harrison Ford's manipulative Col. Graff emphasizes. But in a story that explores lies, betrayal, and genocide, what's the end game?

This article is related to: Ender's Game, Immersed In Movies, Interviews, Interviews , Gavin Hood

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.