In the future, humanity is preparing to launch an attack on the homeworld of an alien race called the Formics who had attacked Earth and killed millions; the Formic invasion was stopped by Mazer Rackham, who crashed his F-35 Lightning II into a Formic queen ship at the apparent cost of his life. Over the course of fifty years, gifted children are trained by the International Fleet to become commanders of a new fleet for this counter-attack.
Cadet Andrew "Ender" Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) draws the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) by his aptitude in simulated space combat. They order the removal of his monitor, signifying the end of the cadet program. Ender is attacked by Stilson, a student he defeated in the combat sim, but Ender fights back and severely injures him. Ender confesses his grief to his older sister Valentine, but is harassed further by their older brother Peter. Graff arrives to reveal he was being tested and is still part of the program. Graff brings Ender to Battle School, placing Ender with other cadets his age, but treats him as extraordinary, ostracizing him from the others.
Among other studies, the cadets are placed in squads and perform training games in a zero gravity "Battle Room". Ender quickly adapts to the games, devising new strategies older students have not yet seen. Graff reassigns Ender to Salamander Army, led by Commander Bonzo Madrid. Bonzo, believing that Ender is inept due to his size and may cause the squad to fail, prevents him from training with the rest of the squad. Another cadet, Petra Arkanian, takes Ender and trains him privately. Bonzo becomes aware of this, but does not take any action against Petra, ordering Ender not to train with Petra. Ender secretly persuades Bonzo to let him train giving an increased chance he wil be swapped to another squad. In the next match, Bonzo orders Ender to do nothing during the match, while the rest of the Salamander Army fights another team; however, seeing Petra in trouble, Ender comes to her aid and helps the Salamander Army win. After the match, Bonzo is humiliated by the other students and threatens Ender if he embarrasses him again.
Meanwhile, Ender plays a computerized "mind game" set in a fantasy world, which aims to present difficult choices to the player. In one situation, Ender creates an outside the box solution to overcome a seemingly unsolvable problem. Later, he encounters a Formic in the game, and then a simulated image of Valentine entering the ruins of a castle. Inside, he finds another image of Valentine but as he nears, it turns into an image of Peter before the game ends. These are noted as unusual additions to the game, seeming being altered by Ender's interaction with the computer.
Graff promotes Ender to leader of his own squad, made from other students that have gained Ender's trust. They are put in increasingly difficult battles. In a surprise match against two other teams, including Bonzo's squad the Salamander Army, Ender devises a novel strategy of sacrificing part of his team to achieve a goal, impressing Graff. Bonzo attacks Ender in the bathroom after the match, but Ender fights back and Bonzo falls during the struggle, seriously injured. Distraught over this, Ender prepares to quit Battle School, but Graff has Valentine speak to him and convince him to continue.
Graff takes Ender to humanity's forward base on a former Formic planet near their homeworld. There, Ender meets Mazer Rackham, who explains how he spotted the shared-mind nature of the Formics to stop the attack fifty years prior. Ender finds that his former squad members are also here to help him train in computerized simulations of large fleet combat; Rackham puts special emphasis on the fleet's Molecular Detachment (MD) Device that is capable of disintegrating matter. Ender's training is rigorous and Anderson expresses concern they are pushing Ender too fast, but Graff notes they have run out of time to replace Ender.
Ender's final test is monitored by several of the fleet commanders. As the simulation starts, Ender finds his fleet over the Formic homeworld and vastly outnumbered. He orders most of his fleet to sacrifice themselves to protect the MD long enough to fire on the homeworld. The resulting chain reaction burns over the surface of the planet, killing the entire population. The simulation ends, and Ender believes the test is over. Then the commanders restart the video screens, showing that the destruction of the Formic homeworld was real and Ender had been controlling the real fleet this time. Despite Graff's assurance he will be known as a hero, Ender is furious as he feels responsible for the annihilation and that everyone will remember him as a killer.
As Ender struggles with his emotions during sleep, he recognizes one of the Formic structures nearby similar to the ruined castle from the game, and believing they were trying to communicate with him, races out towards it. He follows the path shown by the game, and encounters a dying Formic queen. The Queen acknowledges Ender's role in the genocide of their race, but that he simply wanted peace in the long term and forgives him. The Queen gives Ender a Queen egg that it had been protecting.
With the war ended, Ender is promoted to Admiral, given a small ship, and left to his own devices. In a letter to Valentine, he tells her that he is going into deep space, determined to form a new Formic colony with the queen egg.Asa Butterfield as Andrew "Ender" Wiggin. In a 1999 interview, Orson Scott Card confirmed that Jake Lloyd was under consideration for the role. Card asked fans not to judge Lloyd based on his performance in The Phantom Menace, saying that a better script and direction would result in a better performance. In July 2008, Card stated that he would like to see Nathan Gamble play Ender, and expressed regret that he was "probably too old" for the part.
Harrison Ford as Colonel Hyrum Graff. Early in the film's development, Card considered changing Graff to a female character, recommending a "dry comic" such as Janeane Garofalo or Rosie O'Donnell for the role.
Hailee Steinfeld as Petra Arkanian
Viola Davis as Major Gwen Anderson, a psychologist who oversees the Battle School students.
Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham, a war hero whose father was Maori. Kingsley spent over an hour in makeup to have Tā moko tattoos applied. Mazer tells Ender they allow him to "speak for the dead", a nod to the book's sequel, Speaker for the Dead. In a 1998 interview, Card suggested Andre Braugher or Will Smith for the role.Kyle Russell Clements as Young Mazer Rackham
Abigail Breslin as Valentine Wiggin
Aramis Knight as Bean
Suraj Parthasarathy as Alai
Moisés Arias as Bonzo
Khylin Rhambo as Dink
Conor Carroll as Bernard
Nonso Anozie as Sergeant Dap
Jimmy Pinchak as Peter Wiggin
Stevie Ray Dallimore as John Paul Wiggin
Andrea Powell as Theresa Wiggin
Caleb J. Thaggard as Stilson. Brendan Meyer was originally cast in the role, but had to leave the production due to a scheduling conflict.
Jasmine Kaur as Professor
Tony Mirrcandani as Admiral Chamrajnagar
Brandon Soo Hoo as Fly Molo - In the film, Fly Molo slips and injures himself. Petra is assigned to join Dragon Army as a substitute.
Cameron Gaskins as Pol Slattery, a member in Leopard Army
Orson Scott Card as Pilot (voice cameo)
Gavin Hood as Giant (voice and motion-capture performance cameo)
Aaron Johnson as unnamed officer (cameo)
Since Ender's Game was published in 1985, author Orson Scott Card had been reluctant to license film rights and artistic control for the novel. Card explained that he had many opportunities through the 1980s and 1990s to sell the rights of Ender's Game to Hollywood studios, but refused when creative differences became an issue. With the formation of Fresco Pictures in 1996 (which Card co-founded), the author decided to write the screenplay himself. In a 1998 interview, Card discussed the process of adapting the novel into a screenplay.
In 2003, Card submitted a screenplay to Warner Bros., at which time David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were hired to collaborate on a new script in consultation with the then-designated director Wolfgang Petersen. Four years later, Card wrote a new script not based on any previous ones, including his own. In an interview with Wired, Card admitted two obstacles in writing his scripts were being able to "externalize" Ender's thoughts and making it work, "for people who had never read the book."
Card announced in February 2009 that he had completed a script for Odd Lot Entertainment, and that they had begun assembling a production team. In September 2010, it was announced that Gavin Hood was attached to the project, serving as both screenwriter and director. Card said he had written "about six" different scripts before Hood took over. In November 2010, Card stated that the film's storyline would be a fusion of Ender's Game and its parallel novel, Ender's Shadow, focusing on the important elements of both. In October 2013, he explained that this "buddy-movie approach" between Ender and Bean was a proof of concept and once Hood took over he decided to use Petra as more of a major character. On January 28, 2011, it was reported that Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci would be producing the work and would begin presenting the script to prospective investors.
On April 28, 2011, it was announced that Summit Entertainment had picked up the film's distribution and Digital Domain joined Odd Lot Entertainment in a co-production role. Gavin Hood was aboard as director and screenwriter, and Donald McAlpine joined as cinematographer. The producers were Gigi Pritzker and Linda McDonough of Odd Lot Entertainment, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci of K/O Paper Products, Robert Chartoff and Lynn Hendee of Chartoff Productions, who had worked with Card on the development of the film for over 15 years, Card himself, and Ed Ulbrich. Executive producers included Bill Lischak, David Coatsworth, Ivy Zhong and Deborah Del Prete. In an interview with Brigham Young University newspaper The Universe, Card said that his role as producer was in the early stages and that the screenplay is 100% Hood's. Special effects workshop Amalgamated Dynamics provided the special character effects for the film, with founder Tom Woodruff Jr. providing character suit performances.
Production began in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 27, 2012. The film was released on November 1, 2013, in the United States.
The original soundtrack for Ender's Game was released on October 22, 2013. The film's score was composed by Steve Jablonsky. Originally, James Horner was announced to compose the film's score, but it turned out that Jablonsky would be doing the score.
The credits roll song was recorded by The Flaming Lips featuring Tobacco, titled "Peace Sword", which was sold separately as an EP.
Ender's Game: Inside the World of an Epic Adventure is a reference book published by Insight Editions. With a foreword by Ender's Game film director, Gavin Hood, the book is broken into four parts: Ender's World, Battle School, Inside Zero-G, and Parallel Worlds. The book is filled with behind-the-scenes images of the making of Ender's Game as well as interviews with the producers, artists, directors, and cast. Included with the book are nine Battle School army logo stickers, an ID Badge for Ender, and two removable International Fleet posters.
Ender's Game Battle School is the official board game based on the film Ender's Game. Published on November 13, 2013, by Cryptozoic Entertainment, the game is designed by Matt Hyra. Played inside the Battle Room, the player takes control of an Army led by either Commander Ender Wiggin or Commander Bonzo Madrid. With different abilities granted to each Commander, the Armies try to either capture each of its opponent's Gates or freeze the opposing Commander while avoiding other frozen players and Stars.
Along with various T-shirts, a 2014 wall calendar, and film inspired covers for both the novel and the Ender's Game Ultimate Collection comic collection, Funko released two Pop! Vinyl figurines of Ender Wiggin and Petra Arkanian. Ender's Game is also the first film to offer 3D printed replicas of in-film 3D assets. Summit Entertainment collaborated with Sandboxr, a 3D printing service, to open a new merchandising platform offering fans the unique ability to customize and build 3D prints from assets used in production.
Ender's Game partnered with Audi to bring the Audi fleet shuttle quattro to the motion picture. The partnership with ICEE included releasing two limited time flavors: Battle School Blastberry and Orbital Orange, along with a "Train Like an Astronaut" sweepstakes. Growing Basics offered a chance to win a trip to the Los Angeles premiere of Ender's Game. The Langers Juice Company gave away an Ender's Game T-shirt with three proof-of-purchase. Barnes & Noble also offered various promotions including novels collected in boxed sets inspired by the film. Pik-Nik offered a chance to win a trip for a family of four to the Kennedy Space Center. Popcorn, Indiana held a sweepstakes to win a private screening for the winner and up to 250 friends. Star Studio also offered photobooth backgrounds from Ender's Game.
On May 6, 2013, the official movie site for Ender's Game, I.F. Sentinel, launched (I.F. stands for International Fleet, the entity responsible for training the children cadets). Though the site is now filled with short, movie promotional posts, the original site contained new canonical information and characters from the film universe, including archivist Stephen Trawcki, I.F. Major Gerald Stacks, I.F. Academic Secretary Gwen Burton, I.F. Rationing Spokesman Reed Unger, and former Hegemon James van Laake.
On July 17, a recruitment video was released telling users to go to the I.F. Battle School website. Once there, users would be prompted to log onto their Facebook accounts and take a short aptitude test, which when finished would place the user into either Asp, Dragon, Rat, or Salamander Army. Armies would go on to compete against one another in different missions. The first missions involved the users sharing their army assignments on Facebook and Twitter. Doing so unlocked a preview of the film. The second mission had the users compete by once again posting to Facebook and Twitter to try to get their names on a mosaic IMAX poster. The Dragon Army won both missions. The final mission had the users enter sweepstakes from Xbox, IMDb, Yahoo!, and Fandango. There was no winner for the final mission. On September 3, the Battle Room Training game was released on the website. In this game, the user would shoot at different colored stars.
A website called Battle School Command Core opened on September 19, 2013. The website was for those residing in the United Kingdom. The site had six games with a prize for each, including a grand prize trip for two people to NASA.
In July 2013, the group Geeks OUT boycotted the film in protest of Orson Scott Card's views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. The calls for a boycott were picked up by a number of other groups and individuals in the media.
In response to the boycott, Card released a statement in July 2013 to Entertainment Weekly:
Ender's Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
Producer Roberto Orci responded in Entertainment Weekly in March that he was not aware of Card's views when he took on development of the film adaptation. He said that "the movie should be judged on its message, not the personal beliefs of the original author", who had minimal involvement in the film. Orci also stated that "if it's on the screen, then I think it's fair game." Lions Gate Entertainment released a statement stating that "we obviously do not agree with the personal views of Orson Scott Card", while highlighting the company's longtime support of the LGBT community.
This was the last film to be distributed theatrically by Buena Vista International in Japan before the Japanese theatrical brand was renamed Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International starting with Need for Speed in March 2014.
Ender's Game was the number one film in North America during its opening weekend, earning $27,017,351 from 3,407 theaters with an average of $7,930 per theater. The film ultimately grossed $61,737,191 domestically and $63,800,000 internationally, for a worldwide gross of $125,537,191. Variety included the film in its list of the "Biggest Box Office Flops of 2013"
On Rotten Tomatoes, a Review aggregator, the film has a score of 60% based on 196 reviews, with an average rating of 6 out of 10. The critical consensus states: "If it isn't quite as thought-provoking as the book, Ender's Game still manages to offer a commendable number of well-acted, solidly written sci-fi thrills." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 51 out of 100 based on 39 critics indicating "mixed or average reviews".
On February 11, 2014, Ender's Game was released on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and PPV, with an early Digital HD window beginning January 28. The DVD includes deleted / extended scenes with optional audio commentary with Director Gavin Hood and audio commentary for the film with Producers Gigi Pritzker and Bob Orci. The Blu-ray also includes an 8-part featurette called "Ender's World: The Making of Ender's Game" and a featurette called "Inside the Mind Game".
In November 2013, cast member Aramis Knight (Bean) said a script for Ender's Shadow existed, which Hood wanted to film concurrently with Ender's Game, but could not due to budget constraints. Hood discussed a potential sequel as well, noting a new novel Card was writing as a direct sequel to Ender's Game may be more desirable as a follow-up than the next novel in the series, Speaker for the Dead. As of January 2014, Lionsgate was waiting to make a decision on a sequel film, and was also considering a television series.