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TV & Movies

‘Ender’s Game,’ movie review: Zero stars

Space-war fantasy with Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford and Hailee Steinfeld is low on gravity and low on intelligence.

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Richard Foreman

Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford get their war on in ‘Ender’s Game.’

On the dark side of the moon, where awful cult sci-fi and fantasy adaptations are buried, there’s a special cave for “Ender’s Game.” This movie of a 1985 outer-space military allegory is one of the dullest, dumbest, most tedious movies this year. It makes “Battlefield: Earth” and “John Carter” look like “The Godfather” parts 1 and 2. “Dune” is “Lawrence of Arabia” next to this thing.

Audiences of all ages, avoid it. Brain cells are too valuable.

Ironically, it is the brain of young A. E. “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) that, we’re told, makes him special. In the future, 50 years after Earth repelled an attack by the bug-like Formics, Ender’s gifts make him The One sought by the International Fleet and gruff commander Graff (Harrison Ford, shh, don’t wake him). The IF wants Ender to lead a new offensive against the Formics using troops of children. Raised on war games, the youths are adept at strategy and technology.

Ender endures endless training sessions where he faces down bullies and bonds with a tough girl (Hailee Steinfeld). He misses his pacifist sister (Abigail Breslin) on Earth, but rises in the ranks. The IF, though, has manipulated Ender to be the pawn in a final showdown the kid doesn’t see coming.

Moises Arias (l.) and Asa Butterfield face off (Hailee Steinfeld, rear) in ‘Ender’s Game.’

Richard Foreman

Moises Arias (l.) and Asa Butterfield face off (Hailee Steinfeld, rear) in ‘Ender’s Game.’

The insipid, uninteresting boot camp scenes go on and on , and contain an excitement about zero-gravity that would be quaint in a ’70s live-action Disney movie.

As if this all wasn’t just Wii-time cinema anyway — so much conflict simulation, so little conflict — there are long stretches where Ender plays a mind-reading, quest-and-test computer program. Lucky us, we get to watch!

The adolescent actors, horribly miscast as well as misdirected by Gavin Hood (who once made a Best Foreign Film winner, but now makes genre junk like this and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), fare no better than the adults.

Ford, so great earlier this year in "42," is a piece of wood in a beret; Viola Davis’ sympathetic psychologist is all sad-eyed looks, and Ben Kingsley has Maori face tattoos and an accent that suggest he teleported in from “Iron Man 3.” Hood’s script, from Orson Scott Card’s book, is cut-rate “Top Gun” for ’tweens.

Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield embark on space training in ‘Ender’s Game.’

Richard Foreman

Hailee Steinfeld and Asa Butterfield embark on space training in ‘Ender’s Game.’

A last complaint, though this incompetent project inspires so many: It’s more exciting to watch a hero — King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, the Last Starfighter, whoever — find greatness than to hear someone repeatedly called a savior, or, as here, “a Julius Caesar, a Napoleon.”

“Ender’s Game,” the book, may have a special place in pop-lit. The movie, however, is as special as a migraine.

Catch "Joe Neumaier's Movie Minute" throughout the day Wed. - Sun. on New York's WOR 710-AM and at wor710.com.

On a mobile device? Click here to watch the movie trailer.

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