Australian Council on Children and the Media

Ender's Game

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Not recommended under 13, parental guidance recommended 13-15 ( Violence; Disturbing themes and scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Ender's Game
  • a review of Ender's Game completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 December 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended because of violence and disturbing themes and scenes
Children aged 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing themes and scenes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Ender's Game
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Science fiction themes and violence
Length 114 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is a highly intelligent 22nd Century child. Along with many other gifted children, he is being trained by an International Military Force for future inter-galactic battles. 70 years earlier the Earth had almost been wiped out and millions of people died after an invasion by the Formics, an insect like alien race. Colonel Hyram Graff (Harrison Ford) singles out Ender as a possible saviour of the human race and Ender is sent to a battle school in space for further training.

Ender proves himself to have unique skills of leadership and abilities to both command respect and to question authority that make him quickly advance to commander school. There he is put into the Salamander team led by the rather nasty Bonzo (Moises Arias) who takes an immediate dislike to Ender.

Ender proves himself to be smarter than Bonzo and moves on to take command of the entire fleet. However, at the same time Ender grows increasingly uncomfortable about his role and the preparations for war. During the final battle, Ender wants to know if he can be as successful at peace as he is at war.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The ethics of war; child soldiers

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a lot of violence in this movie including:

  • Battle scenes in space between Formics and humans in which spaceships are blown up.
  • The children and young people are being trained in arm to arm combat and the use of weapons and so there are many practice battles between teams where they fight with laser pistols.
  • Ender is attacked by a group of bullies who ambush him. Ender picks up an object and fights back causing much damage to his opponents. The main bully falls to the ground and Ender kicks him repeatedly. (When asked if he enjoyed this he replied that he only did it to prevent further attacks).
  • Ender fights with his older brother Peter, who nearly strangles him. (Peter was disqualified during training because he was prone to violence).
  • Ender and Bean (Aramis Knight) shoot each other with lasers which paralyse them.
  • Bonzo punches Ender in the stomach and threatens to kill him.
  • Bonzo, surrounded by bodyguards, comes into the bathroom while Ender is taking a shower. He challenges Ender to a fight but Ender squirts hot water onto him. Bonzo then attacks Ender who kicks him away. Bonzo falls down, hits his head hard and is knocked out. Ender thinks that he has killed him.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes of transformation in this movie that would disturb children under the age of five, including:

  • Ender plays a computer game which the military psychologist has deemed fit for him to play, in which a mouse like creature runs through a barren wasteland and a giant scary man suddenly appears. The mouse jumps onto the man and crawls into his eye, killing him.
  • Further into Ender’s game, an alien creature like a giant insect appears. The alien disintegrates and becomes his sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin). The mouse changes into Ender who tries to save his sister.
  • Ender has to fight a giant cobra which changes into his brother Peter.
  • Mazer (Ben Kingsley) is a legendary war hero who has tattoos covering his face to honour his Maori ancestors and looks quite scary.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Ender has his electronic monitor removed by a machine which causes him to scream in pain.
  • Ender has to be sedated with a large hypodermic needle

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be scared by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be scared by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Use of substances

Ender is injected with a sedative drug

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including “balls” and “crap” and some name calling such as:

  • Ender refers to Bernard as a ‘chimp in space’ because he made a racist comment.
  • punk
  • snot
  • psycho

In a nutshell

Ender’s Game is a science fiction thriller which raises a number of ethical questions, particularly about war and the right to attack an aggressor or defend oneself. The computer generated images are very effective and the film will appeal to both teens and adults. Both the themes and some fairly intense violent and scary scenes make the film unsuitable for under 13s, with parental guidance strongly recommended for 13 and 14-year-olds.

The main messages from this movie are that diplomacy should always be the preferred option to war and that to defeat your enemy you must first understand them.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Strong female characters.
  • The need to question authority at times.


Parents may wish to discuss the issues raised by the film, including:

  • The morality of training child soldiers and the psychological trauma this causes.
  • The morality of attacking another race in order to prevent being attacked by them.
  • The need to defend yourself in spite of a dislike of physical violence

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