Entertainment: Ender’s Game…ish
It is natural to want to see a book you loved translated to the big screen. With beautiful graphics and a strong cast, I let myself believe that the production of Ender’s Game, a book I loved, on the big screen could be the success story I was hoping for. Unfortunately, Ender’s Game – the movie – followed the examples of Dune, John Carter, and a long string of unsatisfying sci-fi cult adaptations that we are all still trying to erase from memory. On the upside, for fans of the book, there was sufficiently little left of what made us all love it in the first place, in the movie (that is to say story progression, character development, over-arching philosophical themes and insights), that you can almost think about the movie as an entirely different story that just happens to have the same title as the book … okay – with a few key plot twists and significant snippets of conversations in common, as well.
Ender’s Game is the movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s 1985 science fiction novel of the same name. The story picks up with the human race after it has twice faced alien invasion from an ant-like race called the “Formaics”. In order to prepare for the fearfully anticipated “Third Formaic Invasion,” humanity needs a commander. It is decided that only children, whose minds, open, untainted and with superior abilities to integrate information, have the potential for the kind of genius, ruthlessness, and empathy required to be able to so understand an enemy as to be able to achieve total and devastating victory over them. Those gifted few who are chosen are then taken to “Battle School” where they learn military tactics through war games in the “Battle Room.” The movie follows the child genius, Ender Wiggin, the student singled out as humanity’s best hope for victory and consequent survival, as he struggles through his training, grappling with self-acceptance and questions of morality.
Or at least that’s what the movie tried to do. I think the problem may be that the movie couldn’t really make up its mind about what it wanted to do. On the one hand it was trying to cater to fans of the novel by tossing in some familiar scenes and names. But, apparently having concluded that the feature film format didn’t provide enough time to actually explain the references or develop the characters as they appeared in the book, the film makers seem to have mashed together scenes and characters, ignoring BIG chunks of the story and just making other stuff up.
It is reasonable that, in translating a substantial novel- much of which is devoted to internal dialogue – into a two hour film, one would need to make compromises. Especially in the case of Ender’s Game, it is understandable that the filmmakers couldn’t use six year old actors (the age Ender is when he enters Battle School in the book), and that they dropped some of the grittier language and nudity and shocking child on child violence. Still, there were some liberties taken that I really would be hard pressed to explain. In any event, what viewers end up with is a movie that is so busy running through everything so the fans of the book will be happy and adding in extra scenes so it makes sense to other movie goers, that the whole thing just feels overwhelmingly rushed.
Still, after all that, it really wasn’t such a bad movie. Asa Butterfield, who played the title role, Harrison Ford as Colonel Graph, and Violla Davis as Major Anderson all gave convincing performances. The score was exciting and the graphics were spectacular. However, I still don’t understand why all alien space ships end up looking insect-like with lots of detailing and are made out of strange materials. Is there a reason I’m missing why alien ships can’t be constructed using similar elegant metal and efficient aerodynamic forms as the good guy ships?
(The bad-guys’ ship)