Last night I went to see Ender’s Game, in IMAX. [Sidenote: I’m super happy it was not IMAX 3D because I’m so sick of 3D crap.]
The novel came out way back in 1985. I’d never heard of it. Of course I was also only four years old. But the science fiction bug bit me around 6th grade, probably when my love of dinosaurs ran headlong into the 1993 movie version of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. All of a sudden I launched myself from reading Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of Nimh to engrossing myself in Crichton’s world of Sci-fi. To this day, Congo, and Sphere remain two of my most favorite books, with Timeline not too far behind. And that’s only one author. [It should be noted all the movies made from these beloved books sucked so hard it hurt.] I read a lot of those books in middle school, along with discovering other fantastic authors like Tom Clancy, and Alistair MacLean. I didn’t read much in high school because of jobs, homework, friends, and a general distaste for existence in general.
Admittedly I didn’t have a lot of time to read in college, but I did find time to read Ender’s Game. I’d still never heard of it, but was made aware of its existence during an interview with a guy who worked for Electronic Arts (EA) building video games. This was around 2003, when I was getting my Masters degree in educational technology. So we were like nerdy tech brothers, talking bits and bytes, graphics, UIs, and sci-fi. He told me I should read Ender’s Game. He’d read it a long time ago when he was much younger. So I did.
The first time through I know I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I really got it. It was much different than other sci-fi books I had read. I kept waiting for the action. I kept waiting for the space fights. I didn’t realize that Ender’s Game was so much more than that. I’ve since re-read it a few times and being older, I’ve come to realize how awesome it really is. It didn’t affect me emotionally as I didn’t have that sort of connection with it. I was really short and small all through my child years – still am, only 5’5″ – but I had good friends and good surroundings and thankfully wasn’t a target for bullies. But I can definitely see how those that were could connect to Ender Wiggin. In the end, the book is remarkably written, and older more experienced readers will realize it’s not about the war with the buggers, it’s about Ender’s war with himself and his peers. And the way he fights those wars in the Battle Room, and finally as the commander of the fleet is really the most exciting and interesting part of the book.
You may have heard some controversy surrounding the author, Orson Scott Card. He has some pretty strong religious and personal views. He’s vehemently against same-sex marriage, and homosexuality in general. This means I’m vehemently against Orson Scott Card. But, thankfully, his bigotry does not really permeate Ender’s Game. And sometimes we have to remember, as many have said, the artist does not always define the art. While I’m not willing to look past Card’s views and write him off, I’m willing to realize his books can also stand on their own as works of fiction alone. I hope you can too because the movie is worth it.
So, the movie. [Here’s where some minor spoilers are]
I’m still turning it over in my head from last night, but I think I really loved it. In this instance, I feel the movie really did the book justice. In the book, Ender goes to Battle School when he is only six years old, and about six more years are covered through the story – and Ender aging is an important part of the story. But in movies you can’t do that unless you hire a lot of different aged actors that look alike, and have more time to tell significant story parts. So they crammed six years of development into about an hour with one actor in a single unknown amount of time. And they did all right. Many of the important details where still there: Bean’s rope, Ender’s conquering of the various armies of other students, and most importantly his run-ins with Bonzo.
If I had one complaint, it’s the movie should have been about 30-40 minutes longer, with the majority of that time spent in Battle School, in the Battle Room, watching Ender learn how to think outside the box. Discovering how to use bodies as shields, move fluidly in zero-G, and develop that state of mind of “the enemy’s gate is down.” To watch Ender realize that to fight and succeed – like in real life – your perception of situations needs to change from what everyone else perceives as normal.
For those who have read the book, you’ll be glad to know they left out the parts of Peter and Val’s conquering the world through internet personalities.
Lastly, I was wondering how they were going to incorporate the video game Ender played at Battle School. It was such an integral part of his emotional development I knew they couldn’t leave it out. What was there in the movie was about as good a job as could be done I think. It served enough of a purpose to hint at how Ender’s mind and demeanor were changing, but definitely lacked the depth and emotional results apparent in the book.
The special effects were fantastic. The battle sequences at the end were great, and the zero gravity fights in the Battle Room were excellently coordinated and filmed. The only fake looking floating I saw was in the beginning where Harrison Ford’s character was in the shuttle with the launchies right after take-off.
Oh, and shot out to Mr. Ford – I thought he was an excellent Hyrum Graff. Actually, I’d compliment all the young actors in the movie, they all did a fantastic job with their characters. Bean was great – wish we could have had more of him.
Overall, I give it a B+. A solid adaptation of the book.
Go see it. And read the book, too.