Spoiler-Free Movie Review:Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card’s 1985 Hugo award winning novel Ender’s Game is by far one of the best books of the genre as well as a personal favorite book of mine. Naturally I became excited when Ender’s Game, a work that Card himself saw as “un-filmable” was being released as a movie. But did the end result clear the bar on expectations?
In a word: yes. In a few more words: It did as well as I think it could have possibly been made. In that I mean, there’s so much to Ender’s Game that I don’t think would have been possible when translating to the screen. It’s a very thought provoking book and a lot of it is from the perspective of Ender himself, which the book’s final act begs a debate over the morality of each character’s decisions. I think this is why it’s regarded so highly as a piece of literature. The movie however comes off as a more action-driven adventure with some of the book’s thought provoking moments. Unlike the book itself, I probably won’t hold the movie in as high regard when it comes to science fiction movies. With that said, I wasn’t disappointed with the final product at all. In fact I liked it. It did fall short on a few expectations for me:
I understand that you have to cut a significant portion of a book out to make a 2 hour movie. However, I know I’m not alone when I say that the Battle School parts of the novel are some of the best portions of the book. Unfortunately, in the movie we’re limited to 2 battles. I know it’s sorta silly to complain about because I can just as easily say “Harry Potter had more Quidditch games in the books than the movies..this is an outrage!!”, however, Battle School in my opinion was the novel’s shining point. It was hands down, the coolest element and while it takes up a significant part of the movie, I really wanted to see one more battle at least. With that said, I think they did a good job with translating it to film….I just wanted more of it.
This is where I and those that attended the film with me had the biggest issue. I really liked some of the casting such as Harrison Ford as Graff and Asa Butterfield performed well as Ender, however the kids were all much older than I pictured but again, the book spans over a few years so that wouldn’t have played off on camera very well. My biggest disagreement was the design of Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham. I love Kingsley’s work and I think he could play the role well…and he actually did pretty well with it. However, the character design really threw me off. In that I mean the facial tattoos. He does explain the reason for them in the movie in a justified way, yet I found it extremely distracting and hard to concentrate on such an important character to the movie.
A Missing Element in the Mazer Scene
I know I called this a “Spoiler-free” review, but I’m going to barely dip my toe into sort-of spoiler territory here, so if you want to be a pure virgin for the book or movie skip to the next point. But don’t give me a lecture on spoilers, this book has almost been around as long as I have been, so it’s past the spoiler “shelf life”…plus I warned you. In the book, I feel that the meeting of Ender and Mazer Rackham is a really cool moment to bridge the past and the future. Rackham is a relic of the invasion of earth’s battle against the Formic (the alien race that nearly destroyed us all). In the book he’s sent on a near-light speed journey so that he’d be alive to train in the future (a little brushing on Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, will explain how this is possible). I really liked that little part of the book and really wish it was explained in the movie, but it may have been too hard to describe. Alternatively, he could’ve explained it and I missed it having concentrated too hard on the facial tattoos.
Not really a complaint, but I really wanted to hear the Formic be referred to their derogatory name “Buggers”. I’m not a xeno-racist or anything, I have many alien friends and they told me I can use that word! So it’s OK for me to say it! Kidding aside, I think it would’ve been this movie’s equivalent to District 9’s “Fookin Prawns!” had they used it.
I won’t spoil it for those wanting to watch or haven’t read the book. Outside of the Battle School scenes, the very end of Ender’s Game was a section that really turned me onto the book. I was pleased to see it be retained in the movie, but I had some worries going into the movie that it won’t play off as well having seen some TV spots that sort of hint at the ending. Thankfully they kept it true to the book’s emotional final act.
Although the movie falls a little short of my expectations, and isn’t quite as thought provoking as the book, this is quite possibly be the best we can get with a live action Ender’s Game. With that said I liked it and feel that it’s worth the watch especially if you’ve read the book. I feel that the book the movie is based on is a must-read and a movie adaptation would be a fun treat to watch after reading …or vice versa if you’re the type that reads the books after seeing the movie.
I am also really thankful that a proposed boycott didn’t explode to Chic-fil-a severity (God, how annoying was that?). For those unfamiliar with the film’s controversy, Orson Scott Card got himself into hot water with his opinions when he weighed in on marriage equality and a boycott of the movie was called for by a LGBT group. Thankfully, the movie’s stars and producers used their panel at San Diego Comic Con as an opportunity to distance themselves from Card’s comments and show their support for marriage equality. To boycott it I feel was kind of stupid (as are most boycotts). I mean Lewis Carroll has been suggested as a possible pedophile according to some biographers, yet we read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass generations later to children at bedtime and we’ve seen those works become cherished classic cartoons. Card expressed an opinion. As a supporter of marriage equality, I don’t agree with him at all, but I won’t let that be a reason to not read a highly influential book or the movie adaptation based on it and neither should you!
In closing Ender’s Game is definitely worth a visit to the theater and if you haven’t done so already, read the damn book! It’s great! I felt like it overcame quite a few challenges to be made and honestly I’m not sure if it could have been made better for a screen adaptation. I had my issues, as did others, but I don’t know if those issues being resolved would have made it better. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.