Friday, February 14, 2014

The Magic of Ender's Game

Warning: Contains Spoilers

A few weeks ago, thanks to Ithaca College's Student Activities Board, I had the opportunity to attend a free screening of the 2013 film Ender's Game. Directed by Gavin Hood, this film follows the journey of  Ender Wiggins, played by Asa Butterfield, as he works his way through Battle School, a military academy designed to train young men and women to fight alien invaders. As a core part of the training offered at Battle School, students are broken up into teams that simulate a battle against one another in battle school. Although Ender enters the school as an outside, he quickly rises through the military ranks and becomes a commander for his own battle squad. After proving his unparalleled leadership and ability, Ender is told to assembly a squad for a final simulation. In this simulation, Ender is to destroy the Formics, the rival aliens, and their home planet. After completing this mission, Ender is told by Colonel Graf, played by Harrison Ford, that the simulation was an actual battle and that Ender has eliminated the Formics. Ender's Game ends on a cliff hanger when Ender discovers a single alien egg, has a change of heart, and races of to recolonize another planet with it. 

Although I enjoyed the plot of Ender's Game, what really impressed me were the special effects and CGI. Set in the future, this film relied heavily on CGI to create the technology seen throughout the film. In particular, I was impressed by the intense action sequences that took place inside the battle room. According to the above video, a single shot in Ender's Game may contain upwards of 20,000 layers. This video helps to explain the inherent challenges of creating a gravity-free environment. Although the actors were placed on wires, the special effects team for Ender's Game mainly sculpted the entire environment, including the characters bodies, around the faces of the actors.  By doing this, they are able to create bodies that react in a realistic way with the physics of zero-gravity. All this is just one example of the effects in Ender's Game, there are many others that demonstrate that this film is at the forefront on visual effects technology. 

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