Before I start... let me just say this: Orson Scott Card (the guy who wrote the Ender books) is an asshole. He's a hateful, bigoted man who needs a solid kick to the balls. - That being said, he's already made a SHITLOAD of money from the books and audiobooks so claiming to "boycott" his movie just makes you (in my opinion) an uppity little hipster... ESPECIALLY if you own an apple product, Disney movie, or a Walmart receipt...
The non-spoiler review:
Imagine that I have a story that takes 100 words to tell... but instead, I tell it to you in 30 words. Yep. That's how I feel about Ender's game. The story, overall, is there... it just feels hollow. It's good... but it's just missing something.
The spoiler review:
Well... Bean is reduced to a kid with 3 words that Ender "kinda sorta knows" at Battle School... And Alai, the kid with whom Ender forms a bond that keeps him tethered to humanity is "just some smart arab-looking kid". - At least that's how it feels. Don't get me wrong, the kids all act very well... the writing just turns them into flat characters with no emotional development. And that's just frustrating as Hell. Ender, at least, needs a little more development...
Also... Hailee Steinfeld is great, but HOLY SHIT! The unibrow needs to go...
So... The movie, as a whole, is rushed. Every scene of the movie feels like it is 15-30 minutes less than it needs to be... The first 45 minutes of the movie, actually, is really great. We introduce the world, the war, the buggers, Ender and Graff... oh, Val and Peter are there too, but not very much. This takes us up to Ender joining Bonzo Madrid's army... And I LOVE how they did Bonzo. He's a short little douchebag just like he's supposed to be. Made better by the fact that Asa Butterfield is like 18" taller than him. It really is great. He pulls of the "little-man's complex" rather well... But then we go directly from Ender's first battle with Bonzo to a 30 second interaction with the mind-game.
Rather than Ender dwelling on the mind game for weeks on end and finally snapping and killing the giant, he instead does it in about 10 minutes... which makes him seem much more of a violent sociopath and less of a kid who is coming undone at the seams thanks to manipulation and stress. But, alas, he does it and then moves on to leading his own army in record time... this army is full of "misfits and screw ups" who, for no reason that I can see, follow Ender. Why?!?! There is no reason! All he's done is talk back to his superiors and be snotty.
Oh well, the story must move forward. Wasn't Battle School great? And short? Well, Ender kicks Bonzo's ass but only so far as hospitalizing him and not killing him... which greatly disappoints me. Ender has some serious fucking issues that result with his killing Bonzo (and Stillson... AND the Formics...), but it's America and we're not allowed to have a prepubescent hero save the planet after killing two other children, accidental or otherwise... Oh well... Val shows up, tells him to keep fighting and he does. Not quite the heartfelt moment between the loving siblings we saw in the book... but we need to keep the story moving... people are getting bored with all this 'emotion' - LESS TALKING MORE KILLING!!!! RAWR!!!!
Well, Ender is now off to Command School... after only one battle with his misfit Army on screen... lame...
Now we're on some far off planet with Ender and his Jeesh. What? You don't know what a Jeesh is? Guess you should've read the book! BOOM! - Seriously - this is where I took note of all the Fan-service done to the readers. Can't have the fully fleshed-out story? Fine! We'll just throw in random words, phrases and scenes from the book so you can go "OH!! HE SAID IT! HE SAID 'THE ENEMY'S GATE IS DOWN!!!'" - Oh, how I hate you, Hollywood.
Then Ender faces off with a series of, what seems like 3 battles, to kill all the Formics and save humanity... Only it doesn't show that he is slowly wearing down and stressing out and coming really close to killing himself... But, we can't have a stressed out child hero, damnit!!! So, he wins. Finds out he just killed every single Formic, thousands of humans and the Formic homeworld... And he throws up. - all in all, that scene was quite nice.
Then we have a snippet of "Ender in Exile" and "Speaker for the dead" - but not in a way that makes people want to go on with the story... but just in a "We need to add 3 minutes to the movie" way. And instead of a setup for the Ender's Shadow series, which would be an AWESOME set of movies... we go with "I'm leaving. The end."
So... there ya go.
All in all, I give it a C+... which is fine. It's enjoyable, but it's just missing something.
Post Script - I assume (and have no proof of this) that we never hear the word "bugger" because it means "To Penetrate someone's anus" in the UK and parts beyond. And since this is a globally released movie, I don't think people want to hear Peter ask Ender "Hey, wanna play astronauts and ass-fuckers?"