Ender’s Game blasts its way into theaters on November 1. While it is widely known that Gavin Hood’s film takes some liberties with, and makes some significant changes to Orson Scott Card’s novel, one thing fans are eager to see are the zero gravity scenes at Battle School. In the book these are some of the most vivid, exciting moments—even more so than what has been turned into those big action spectacles—and they have the potential to be incredible, if they’re done right. This new behind the scenes feature, “Building Ender’s World,” digs into the special effects of the film, of these scenes and much more.
Set in a futuristic world where the human race has survived an invasion by an alien race known as Formics. The inventive heroics of one man, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kinsley) saved the day. In order to prevent this from happening again, the military has started looking for future leaders, young, but strategically gifted kids, who think like their fully grown, overly conditioned counterparts no longer can. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is one of the most gifted recruits, and is taken to Battle School, an orbiting military academy, and pitted against his classmates and pushed towards his breaking point.
A key drill the recruits participate in is a combat simulations in a zero gravity environment. Ender leads his Dragon Army to an undefeated record, using fresh, innovative, continually evolving tactics. This is where he proves his true tactical brilliance, to his fellow soldiers, his superiors, and himself.
The footage we’ve seen of these battles may be the best of any that’s come out so far, and this video gives you a nice glimpse of how they went about creating the scenes. There are wires and pulleys and all the usual thing you expect, but how crazy is that long, telescoping arm that spins Ender around like a giant robot claw. Each one of these shots is incredibly intricate, comprised from tens of thousands of layers and elements.
While the effects look good in the zero g scenes, the rest presents some questions. After you succeed at Battle School, the next step is Command School, where the simulations get more intense and real, using actual ships—information that is something of a spoiler. This gives Hood and company the opportunity to flash some cash on the screen in the form of big, epic fights. Visual Domain, the folks behind the effects for movies like Transformers and Tron: Legacy, took the lead on Ender’s Game, and that’s problematic for me.
The look of Legacy is actually by far the best thing about that movie, but what we’ve seen of Ender’s Game more closely resembles their work with Michael Bay and his giant robots. Those are films where, to my eye, the CGI heavy action sequences have always been muddy and jumbled. Perhaps this is because we’ve only seen them in small formats. Maybe they’ll look fantastic plastered across an IMAX screen, but what has been presented doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
In addition to Butterfield Ender’s Game also stars Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, and Viola Davis.