Yesterday afternoon we saw a new trailer for Ender's Game, during a panel at Comic-Con, and it showcased some seriously epic war scenes. Director Gavin Hood, with stars Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield, discussed this long-awaited movie about a boy bred to lead Earth's forces against a mysterious alien enemy.
In the new trailer, we were treated to our first detailed look at the alien Formics' ships, which are a marvel of insectile creepiness, sort of like spiny cockroaches blown up to monstrous proportions. We see them in the first battle that decimated Earth, swarming through our planet's skies and eventually igniting a wall of fire that eats its way across the landscape. Humanity defeats them, but the planet is left a wasted ball of wrecked ships and deserts.
This is the famous battle that Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) won against the bug-like aliens, known among the soldiers as Buggers. What was immediately striking about these sequences was the incredible realization of the Formics' ability to swarm through space like a cloud of sentient bullets. This visual effect is clearly the signature of the film, and we saw it in several sequences later, too.
We get a few glimpses of Ender's recruitment by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford), who proclaims that Ender has been bred to be a perfect soldier, because he can "understand the enemy." We watch Ender training, and see Rackham asking Graff to tell Ender the truth about what's happening in the war — there's some mystery that Ender doesn't know, and that Graff wants to keep from him. Graff only cares about Ender destroying the Formics before they strike again, and Ender internalizes this, shouting, "I will do everything to win this war!"
And that's when we get some seriously incredible shots of the battle scenes between Ender, leading the human force of children, and the Formics. Standing in a translucent control station, surrounded by a wash of stars, illuminated by a gesture-controlled console, Ender barks out orders. We cut to a scene with a sea of Formic ships hovering over what looks like a field of icy rocks, something like a ring of Saturn. Ender orders his ships to sneak under the the ice, and shoot upward — then the whole battalion explodes in a haze of shattered ice and ship parts. It's absolutely incredible. This was followed by equally compelling scenes, with more massive Formic swarms, Ender-augmented firepower, and giant space stations collapsing into embers.
In the interstitial scenes of dialogue, a clear picture of Graff emerges as a man who doesn't care if Ender's powers of war-making wind up killing him. Harrison Ford said the main reason why he took the role of Graff was to expose the way militaries have always manipulated young people into fighting. Asa Butterfield and director Gavin Hood emphasized that they really wanted this movie to be about characters and moral conflict as well as cool effects. We didn't get very much of the characters in this trailer, but if they're as emotionally powerful as the fight scenes, this is going to be a really interesting film.
The filmmakers also addressed the controversy over Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card's public declarations of homophobia. "We support LGBT rights and human rights," producer Robert Orci said. "The message of this movie is tolerance." Well, tolerance for humans anyway. Nobody is speaking up on behalf of the Formics.