Ender's Game 4K Blu-ray Review

Does have a certain appeal

by Simon Crust
SRP: £19.99

Ender's Game Review

Knocking him down won the first fight. I wanted to win all the next ones too.    

Based on the bestselling and award winning novel of the same name, Ender’s Game, from X-Men Origins: Wolverine director Gavin Hood, tells the story of young Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a gifted child who has penchant for strategic thinking, especially in war games. This brings him to the attention of the military, especially Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) who champions his gifts as the best chance for Earth in the up and the coming battle with the alien Formics, an insectoid race that attacked and nearly decimated Earth years before. Children have been trained in warfare and strategic thinking ever since as the humans wish to send a retaliatory force to strike back before the Formics try again, and we watch as manipulation, leadership and destiny combine in a story that is much bigger than you might first perceive.

 

Complex issues  

We follow Ender as he wins battles both in games, and in his personal life before the final confrontation that throws everything we think we know into turmoil and sets Ender off on a different path. Ender’s Game does have a certain appeal, it covers some complex issues without getting bogged down in semantics and has enough action and drama to keep most entertained (even if you do see the final twist coming). Moral ambiguity and questions about first strikes and retaliation still remain prominent and relevant. Hood keeps the pace high, the tension strong and elicits some excellent performances from his young cast, while stalwarts such as Harrison Ford and Ben Kinsley add some gravitas to it all.

Ender's Game 4K Video

Ender's Game
It's one small step for man, and an even smaller step for a child

Ender’s Game was shot digitally using Red Epic cameras with a source resolution of 5K, but ultimately finished as a 2K DI. The disc presents an up-scaled 3840 x 2160 resolution image in the widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio, and uses 10-bit video depth, High Dynamic Range, a Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec for HRD10. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Ender’s Game on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Panasonic DP-UB450 Dolby Vision HDR10+ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

 

Let’s answer the question that everyone is asking straight away: this appears to be a direct port of the US disc 

It is very difficult to see through the image with an incorrect black level, it affects everything; colours, frame depth, shadow detail, image punch etc. And because this is an up-scale there is precious little increase in the detail level, in short, it’s hard to find any positives to say.

Detail in skin texture, clothing weaves, computer consoles, weapons, etc. is marginally improved, that is to say slightly keener, slightly more resolved. With establishing shots, not that there are many, or when the rockets take off, there is a perceivable increase in resolution, but you do have to be looking.

Colours are bland and muted, but of course they are not, it’s because the black level is too high, so any impact, verve of boldness is lost (imagine pushing the brightness control up), so whilst there might be more depth or range to the colours, this, in real terms, is lost to the viewer.

Black does not exist (even in the bars of the 2.39:1 frame), so depth and punch is lost; but the white scale is pretty good; metallic sheen, the spaceship weaponry, the battle room lights and weapon fire is bright; while the rocket blasts and planetary destruction hold a pleasing amount of heat.

The source is immaculate and there are no digital anomalies.

Ender's Game 4K Audio

Ender's Game
That's no moon, that's a, no wait, it is the Moon

The English Dolby Atmos track is a real winner and goes a long way into saving this disc. There are some real stand out moments to this track, from full on bombast, such as the rocket take off, to real immersive atmosphere, such as the chattering of the Formic; but more than that, the whole track has a surround atmosphere, whether that is in the class room, the battle room, or in massive space battles. The overhead speakers are in near constant use to fill the surround environment, with plenty of effects to add height, the climactic space battle is simply awesome.

 

Massive space battles   

Bass is tremendous, there are plenty of LF effects, and some thunderous low end effects: the rocket take off, both externally and internally, the planetary destruction vibrating the core, while weapon impacts also pack a punch. Dialogue is well maintained, held to the frontal array and sounds very natural. The score, sounding like a cross between Game of Thrones and anything Two Steps from Hell produce, makes full use of the surround environment. The track is a real work out for the speakers and certainly demo material.

Review System: Denon AVR-X4300H, MK Sound LCR750 and SUR55T, XTZ S2 Atmosphere ceiling mounted, SVS PB-12 Ultra

Ender's Game 

Ender's Game
Come fly with me, come fly away with me

All the extras are found on the included Blu-ray and are identical to what has been seen before, here’s what I wrote in 2016:

Audio Commentary – The first is with director Gavin Hood whose knowledge about the film (as one would expect) is encyclopaedic, bordering on autistic – his delivery is good natured and excited and the information, mostly technical in nature to do with effects, sets, design, story developments, stunts, camera movements etc., comes thick and fast. It’s never boring, but with only the one person does become monotonous. Terrible recording too, way too much sibilance on the mic leading to distorted s’s.

Audio Commentary – The second is with producers Gigi Pritzker and Bob Orci and by contrast their chat is far more relaxed. They do cover some of the same ground, but form a different perspective which means it is like a fresh listen; they have a good delivery and a working chemistry, name-dropping notwithstanding.

Ender’s World: The Making of Ender’s Game – A series of eight featurettes that cover specific segments of the making of the film, they can be played all together or watched individually. Their titles give away exactly what they are about and it is best watched as one feature where the genesis of the project is explained and how the film went through the ringer to get made. Pretty much everyone who had a hand in the production gets to have some screen time, though it could have done with less finished film used to pad out the run time. Titles are: Journey to the Screen, Recruiting the Troops, Ender in Zero G, Battle School Revealed, The Mind Game, Behind Enemy Lines, The Alien World and Ender’s Mission Complete.

Deleted/Extended Scenes – Six in total that can be watched individually, all together, with or without director's commentary. Actually very little here (compared to how much must have been cut if you listen to the commentary) and all removed due to either pacing, or giving the ‘twist’ away too soon, though there are a couple of character beats that might have improved the flow just slightly.

Ender's Game 4K Verdict

Ender's Game 4K Blu-ray Review

Ender's Game
There's a slight infestation of ants in Superman's Fortress of Solitude

Ender’s Game does have a certain appeal, it takes some complex issues without getting bogged down in semantics, has enough action and drama to keep most entertained and even if you see the final twist coming it's still strong enough to pack quite a punch. Moral ambiguity and questions about first strikes and retaliation still remain prominent, so this sci-fi pulp actioner remains relevant.

  

Problematic  

The set from Entertainment One is problematic; the up-scaled image has an incorrect black level, meaning all depth, colour vibrancy and punch are lost from the picture, even if detail has a slight increase in resolution; and whilst this is made up for by the incredible Dolby Atmos surround track, with its myriad effects, deep surround environment and tremendous bass, this is still shoddy. The extras are on the included Blu-ray and have all been seen before.

Scores

Movie

.
.
.
7

Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Sound Quality

10

Extras

.
.
.
7

Overall

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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