Ender's Game (UK - BD RB)
Chris checks out the Blu-ray release of this recent book-to-movie adaptation...
After an alien race attack, Earth prepares for a future war by recruiting the most intelligent children and training them to lead the inevitable battle. When Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) recruits him to the International Fleet, Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) quickly establishes himself as the best recruit of his generation with abilities even greater than those of the legendary war hero Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley). As his abilities are tested and honed, he soon becomes Earth's only hope against total annihilation. (Taken from the official synopsis.)
Can anyone say orange and teal? Entertainment One's release of Ender's Game arrives with an impressive 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC), but it's one that looks like so many other films I'm beginning to wonder if someone has passed a law I'm not aware of. Still, it's pretty much what you'd expect from a modern feature, especially one shot on Red Epic cameras, which is to say free from film artefacts and impressively detailed throughout. Blacks are suitably inky when necessary (which is often, given that much of the action occurs in space), but not at the expense of shadow detail. Earlier joking aside, the colour palette does have a very strong leaning towards steely blues and amber hues, which serves to lessen the 'pop' of bright primaries, but the visuals suit the sterile environments and the overall tone of the film. While this 'one size fits all' colour grading thing is becoming a bit boring, in this case it at least represents the film as originally envisaged. Of course even the best source can be undone by an incompetent encode, but you don't have to worry about that here. Only the pickiest of nitpickers are going to find cause to complain about this one.
The excellent visuals are accompanied by an equally accomplished DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that does just about everything right. The more intimate moments feature plenty of discrete ambient effects, the presence of which provides a lot of atmosphere without being too 'in your face'. During the larger set-pieces this subtlety gives way to more aggressive use of the available channels, delivering accurate, clear placement of effects that envelop the listener. Dialogue is usually firmly anchored at the front, but it occasionally traverses the soundstage to good effect, and there are no prioritisation issues to report. Overall fidelity and dynamic range are great, with no distortion at either the high or low ends (the latter of which packs a decent wallop through the sub). It's a shame that we didn't get the 7.1 track as featured on the US release, but even so I'm fairly confident that you could use this disc to demo your system and still impress.
At first glance there doesn't appear to be too much in the way of supplemental material, but when you add the running time of the two commentary tracks together with the Blu-ray exclusive 'making of' segments, you end up with around five hours of content.
- Audio Commentary by Director Gavin Hood: The director provides what he describes as a 'stream of consciousness' commentary track that covers a lot of bases.
- Audio Commentary by Producers Gigi Pritzkerand Bob Orci: As you might expect, this is a more conversational effort than Hood's solo effort (duh), revealing plenty of info about the production and addressing some of the changes made for the cinematic adaptation.
- Ender's Game: The Making of Ender's Game: A collection of featurettes that explore the various facets of the filmmaking process, such as adapting the novel, casting, boot camp, simulating zero gravity with wire-work etc. It's not as cohesive as it could have been if presented as a single documentary, but the various segments are interesting and don't fall into the 'PR fluff' trap.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes: These feature optional commentary by director Gavin Hood, but truth be told I don't think any of them would have added to the completed picture.
- Trailers: The disc includes a number of trailers for forthcoming theatrical features and Mars Bars. I don't know about you, but finding this sort of stuff on retail discs really annoys me...
Ender's Game is perfectly competent feature, but it's also a strangely cold, emotionless one. I never really connected with the characters or empathised with their situation, and even the film's ending elicited more of an 'I saw that coming' response than any sort of emotional pay-off. However, the cast deliver strong performances, particularly Butterfield, and it delivers striking visuals accompanied by a number of impressive set-pieces. The Blu-ray itself is technically excellent with a surprisingly decent collection of supplements, so whether you're a fan or simply curious you can rest assured that the disc is up to snuff.
Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 10th March 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Making of Featurettes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Gavin Hood
Cast: Asa Butterfield
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi and War
Length: 0 minutes
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