It’s not uncommon for movies based on books to outdo their original form. Forrest Gump is much better with Tom Hanks than on the page, as is Who Framed Roger Rabbit? versus Who Censored Roger Rabbit? Still, is it fair to judge a movie against the literary counterpart? I say no, but doesn’t help movies like Ender’s Game feel like more than a cliff-notes version of the book with high production value.
Fifty years ago the
Buggers Formics invaded Earth. If it wasn’t for brilliant military hero Mazer Rackham, humanity would have lost. Now we’re training children to be the next great military battle commanders to prepare for another war. All of this is handily explained with the opening voice over. This method of delivering information to the audience has begun to greatly annoy me. I know it can be hard to convey important tidbits without one character obnoxiously telling another something they should already know; but when you have a different method of conveyance already mapped out, why not just go with that?
Quickly we’re introduced to Andrew “Ender” Wiggins. After one final test where he brutalizes another boy in self defense, he’s accepted to Battleschool. In what seems like only a month, he’s given command of his own squadron to participate in the only thing that matters in the school, the games. After one battle he graduates to command school along with his friends. We’re on a time table here people.
Asa Butterfield does a commendable job as Ender while Harrison Ford surprising showed up for this one. Ben Kingsley played himself though was incredibly distracting with his face covered in tattoos. The reason they gave for this aesthetic seemed obtuse. The other child actors were serviceable, with none really standing out as good or bad except perhaps for Ender’s brother, Peter. He only had one scene in the movie since the subplot with him and sister Valentine was removed. Since Ender was aged up the siblings were as well. The scene with Ender and Peter fell flat because of Peter’s age. It made sense for a 10 year old to still be exploring his world through violence, but here it just seemed odd.
The weakest aspect of the movie was the computer game Ender played. Without inner monologue, it lacked some context. While there were many changes from the book to the movie, only three really stood out to me. The book took place over a few years as Ender trained. It’s understandable that they would abbreviate this due to the inability to show children aging, but this made it seem like everything took place in a few months. I’ve always found that movies have difficulty showing time passing. In this case it does a disservice to the characters as their development doesn’t feel earned.
Though I’ve named a few, my only real complaint was the removal of the psychological breaks from Ender. Much of the book was about he was broken down again and again, constantly isolated. The movie did a poor job conveying this, even awkwardly giving him somewhat of a love interest. The last thing I noticed was the increased presence of black characters. I’m sure this was to help show that author Orson Scott Card isn’t a raging bigot (spoiler: he is).
I can almost guarantee that anyone who has read the book won’t enjoy the movie for one reason or another. As for those who haven’t, it depends on your feelings towards sci-fi. The trailer does a fine job of selling the movie. My friend who saw the movie with me said: “After 30 years I thought they would have done better.” (The book released in 1985). I replied: “Well that was stupid.”
Finished the book an hour before seeing the movie.