Before I begin writing anything on the film, there are two things that should be made clear. First, Orson Scott Card is a terrible human being whose opinions I find deeply disturbing; I would never recommend anyone pay him any heed and would rather he disappear in the annals of history entirely. Second, Ender's Game and its sequel, The Speaker for the Dead, are two of the best sci-fi books I've ever read and remain hugely formative for me; they are books I recommend everyone to read, whether you like sci-fi or not, for their philosophical connotations alone. In short, I believe that you can separate the art from the artist and that the actions of one should not impinge the impact of the other. It also means I was extremely dubious going into this film. How could it possibly live up to the book?
On that note then, if you haven't already read the book then do not watch the film. It is a pale comparison of the true storyline and will, unfortunately, ruin most of what makes the book quite so impactful. If you have read the book then, unfortunately, there's nothing really new for you here. As a result, I basically wouldn't recommend anyone watch this film.
Which is a shame, because despite the immensely negative press it received, I think it is a fairly faithful adaptation. There are a couple of odd moments and some elements that I don't feel were given anywhere near enough screen time. Bean's character is woefully underserved, though nowhere near as much as Ender's siblings who have been reduced to mere footnotes. Moments of brilliance from the books have been refined to near obsolescence as well, particularly the Mind Game which is a great shame. Film Ender is almost too perfect, rarely making any mistakes and overcoming every challenge without any clear struggle. Book Ender is, therefore, a lot more nuanced as a character. Despite these shortcomings, the pacing is well maintained and the core of the plot is there. Unfortunately, I feel that where the book excels is in the slow builds and sudden reveals, which the film just doesn't have the time to pull off. Perhaps it would have been better served as a TV adaptation.
The casting, however, is worth noting. There are some very strong performances on display by a predominantly teenage cast, most of whom I will now keep an eye out for. There wasn't a bad performance amongst them, with the worst showing coming from Ben Kingsley's rather skittish Mazer Rackham. Casting a white man into the role of a half-Maori and then tattooing his face was also deeply distracting.
There isn't all that much, then, that I can say negatively about Ender's Game. It hits all the right notes, the acting and direction is decent to good throughout, the CGI is stunning at times and the overall concept is executed well enough. The world-building could have been a little better, but again I feel ran into time constraints. Unfortunately, though, the end result is just not as good as the source material and lacks any of the books punch as a result. It's not a book that ever seemed viable to be converted, in my opinion, as so much of what makes it work is the way Ender thinks about the world. That unique perspective is lost to someone simply watching events unfold and the story is lacking as a result.