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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.
Ender's Game

"The real point of the movie is not to dictate some policy to society -- that's something that has got to evolve. It's how are you, Ender Wiggin, taking personal responsibility for your actions? But his reaction to being totally duped is interesting. His ego is deeply invested in proving himself. Asa wanted to be humble about an important victory. I said the problem with that is he needs to be as caught up in his victory as the audience. Ender is human -- he's not some perfect role model. He's a kid with a capacity for violence beyond what he should use. And his journey is to find that balance. And in a sense, that's all of our journey."

Yet Hood's filmmaking journey was made easier thanks to the early involvement of Digital Domain 3.0, the Oscar-winning VFX studio ("Benjamin Button") and co-producer (now owned by Sun Innovation of Hong Kong and India's Reliance MediaWorks). Storyboarding and previs during pre-production enabled the director to realize his vision of a Command School Simulator, zero gravity Battle Room, and final battle with the insect-like aliens called the Formics.

Hood wanted a grand, interactive space for Ender and his classmates, which was part of the seductive eye candy he referred to. "First, it was all about designing the Battle School and then putting it onto three-dimensional environments, figuring out the scale and distances and where the stars would be, and then creating little animated space kids that could fly around in that room at the correct proportions and velocities. And in the meantime, I sent actors to train with Cirque du Soleil to become as fluid as possible on wires so as much of the action could be captured live.

"And then you blend real photography with the virtual environment that you're creating in parallel with it," Hood adds. 

Lack of communication is another crucial theme of the movie, yet, ironically, Hood suggests that great communication with his colleagues helped pull off "Ender's Game."

"In a way, the movie's about what makes good leadership. It's someone who's decisive but also a really good listener and compassionate. It's balancing all of these elements and in a much less twisted way than war. I hope that what we've done with 'Ender's Game' is deliver something that is visually fun for a young audience and their parents to watch, and then have something to talk about afterwards."

Indeed, that's what separates "Ender's Game" from many of its bigger-budgeted and less provocative studio rivals.

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

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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.