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Review of ‘Ender’s Game’ Steelbook Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD Movie

The 10-year anniversary of director Gavin Hood’s cinematic adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi military novel returns in the ultra-high definition disc format encased in metal in Ender’s Game: Steelbook Limited Edition (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 114 minutes, $21.99).

The story takes place 50 years after the near extinction of humanity by an alien species called the Formics. Formed in response to the attack, Earth’s International Fleet now trains gifted children to prepare for any possible return of the hostile extraterrestrials.

Viewers follow the burgeoning career of young teen Cadet Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) and his subsequent training at the Battle School after being noticed by Col. Hyrum Graff (a gruff and creaky Harrison Ford collecting a paycheck) and Maj. Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) because of his advanced digital war skills.

Ender’s talents have him excel in zero-gravity combat simulations, commanding his own boot camp regimen and eventually getting him promoted to train on the former planet of the Formics. He’s tutored by war hero Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley) on how to attack the alien’s home world.

The movie’s visual effects far exceed the fairly generic and tedious, kid-friendly, Starship Troopers-style adventure. Bound by a lifeless plot and lack of action through most of the events, the film only simmers at around the last 10 minutes.

However, tweens dreaming of being sci-fi war heroes will embrace the coming-to-command fantasy adventure.

4K in action: As one of the first movies released to the 4K disc format by Lionsgate back in 2016, the presentation dazzles, culled from a 2K digital intermediate.

Viewers can focus on a lifelike, heavily detailed slowly spinning space station and the scenes in a zero-gravity glass sphere battle arena with the Earth peeking through the panels.

Also, keep a keen eye for the fantasy digital mind game shown on a tablet with its wondrous world and characters including a grey bald giant, the fiery details of a massive Formics’ ship being destroyed and some stunning rocket launches.

The best moments later in the film encapsulate an overview of the Formics’ main, arid, orangish, crystal shard and tunneled planet featured in some explosive planetary war simulations.

The Dolby Atmos also impresses with a sound mix booming through a room whether a ship taking off or explosions or the destruction of a planet rattling the furniture.

Best extras: The 4K disc offers no extras, but the included Blu-ray version of the film culls the original digital goodies from the 2014 high definition release.

These include a pair of optional commentary tracks. The first features a solo track with the director, also the screenwriter and a former military man, as he delivers a “stream of consciousness” in his words.

Besides discussing the normal production fare, he dives into the military themes, explains how this young person defines moral values, and reflects on the merging of good and evil in humans.

It’s overall a very informative aural companion to a movie with plenty of information from Mr. Hood and adding details as minute as designing the helmets with specific light reflections in mind.

The other track offers producers Gigi Pritzker and Roberto Orci having a nonstop conversation covering the film’s origin, story themes, book comparisons and exploration of specific scenes. It’s a fresh perspective apart from the director’s thoughts and should be equally interesting for fans.

Viewers also get an eight-part, roughly 49-minute overview of the production covering adapting the book to film; casting; placing the young actors in space camp and a real modified boot camp; the Battle School design; digital effects; and the complex wire work and green screen effects involved for the combat arena scenes.

However, the steelbook packaging, a Best Buy exclusive, is the true highlight of the release.

First, a translucent plastic slipcase, covering the steel, showcases an illustration of Ender (from the chest on up) wearing the combat arena spacesuit with helmet.

Remove the slipcase to take off Ender’s suit to reveal his crew cut and him dressed in standard blue military garb. The recruit is now part of a collage with the Formics’ barren, orangish planet and mothership below him and Earth’s International Federation fleet above in space.

The back of the case continues the barren planet spread with a full shot of Ender’s back as he enters the Formics’ hive.

Open the steelbook to find under the discs another shot of the Formics’ hive entrance and the other side reveling in an illustrated, nearly full body shot of one of the aliens.

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