So there’s a movie! Ender’s Game, the science fiction book that we all know and love, has finally been adapted for the big screen. I went and saw it yesterday, and I was bracing myself for the worse. That being said, I thought Ender’s Game (the movie) was well done. It stuck to closely to the plot of the book, albeit abbreviating everything madly for time.
Anytime a book I feel strongly about is adapted to the big screen, I’m ready for disappointment as its impossible to translate my personal reading experience into a film (how awesome would that be, though?). The great thing about reading is each reader’s mind builds our own unique ideas of what the story looks like. In this sense, books have access to our imaginations in a way I think films don’t. Movies, while fun, are entertaining in a different way: unless the creators of the film have a specifically nutty or imaginative vision, it can be a challenge to top a story you have already detailed to your own liking.
With the challenge of book adaptation in mind, I think the movie did a great job of casting and bringing to life some of the book’s characters: especially notable were Bonzo (Moisés Arias), Ender’s battle school enemy, and soft-spoken and small Bean (Aramis Knight), Ender’s sidekick. Asa Butterfield as Ender does a great job balancing Ender’s insecurity and intelligence, especially through the first half of the movie. A bit ill-suited for his brief part, I thought, was Jimmy Pinchak, who played Peter. The visuals are, of course, stunning. Battle School is viewed from space, with the Battle Room as a gigantic dome looming to the side, and the shot is startling. The alien planets, and the videos of legendary battles between human and alien ships, are a great reminder for someone who doesn’t go to the movies too often (like me) of how neat today’s special effects can really be.
My main complaint is that this the movie was about 20 minutes too long. I won’t give anything away here for those who haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I think much of the last bit could have been saved for the next film. Ender’s Game has sequels and prequels and novellas and spin-off series, and if there isn’t a sequel to the film it would be ironic as the book has just so many follow-ups. It would also be a shame to not let the other characters (Bean especially pops to mind) have more screen time.
As I’ve mentioned before, Ender’s Game influenced my love of science fiction as a genre when I was young, as it seemed to with so many others. (Before Orson Scott Card there was perhaps only H.M. Hoover, author of Away Is a Strange Place to Be, a young adult novel read to my rapt 3rd grade class by a librarian–hearing this book may have been the highlight of my mainly unpleasant elementary experience.) My dad gave me a copy of Ender’s Game that I have lovingly kept even today, now worn, with a cracked binding, banded in a sparky hair band that reveals the book’s era.
I think Ender’s Game helped me see how far an author could really go within a novel. I’m not sure how old I was when I read it, but I know I had begun moving from Nancy Drew toward Michael Crichton and John Grisham with my sister’s help. Coming from young adult fiction, the very seemingly huge amount of thin pages and hefty total weight of each paperback Crichton novel was daunting. I remember my sister sitting me down and telling me about Congo, “You can read any amount of pages, the length just doesn’t really matter. You can read that.” Hence I was able to take on the longer-than-Y.A. Ender’s saga series, and then move on to the rest of the big world of grown-up books.
I do think Ender’s Game has influenced a bunch of science fiction today, and I saw the Ender’s Game movie with a friend who asked me “This is like a Y.A. story right?” as we were walking into the theatre and talking about the book. Comparing Ender’s Game to the Y.A. stories of today, there is a reminder of how it sort of translates into the same material and how it also sort of doesn’t. Ender’s Game has a young underdog who struggles with bullies, but while The Hunger Games exudes love and revolution, Ender’s Game weeps manipulation and mourning. Not as glamorous, by far. When I was talking to my friend about the book’s sequels as we were walking out of the theatre she asked, “Man are they going to make a movie called Genocide?” I think that is a very good question.
- Ender’s Game sequel no longer likely after unspectacular US box office (theguardian.com)
- Ender’s Game (bereansatthegate.com)
- ‘Ender’s Game’ author Orson Scott Card won’t be harmed if there’s boycott of movie (nydailynews.com)