Ender’s Game written by Gavin Hood (screenplay) and Orson Scott Card (based on the book Ender’s Game by), directed by Gavin Hood (Summit Entertainment, OddLot Entertainment, Chartoff Productions, PG-13, 114 min)
Starring Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield.
Book to Movie Conundrum
Finally one of my favorite science fiction books, if not my absolute favorite science fiction book, has been made into a movie. When any book that you love is made into a movie, the first reaction is one of extreme skepticism. Nevertheless, I still had to see it. As expected the book is “better”. The movie cuts too many details about important characters and decides to keep things in that perhaps weren’t that necessary. That being said, if I knew nothing of the book, the movie was absolutely enthralling. In fact, I would still see it again. Visual entertainment is a different medium, and taken at face value, the movie entertains well and keeps the plot moving forward.
The story is that of the Earth military, who is training young children to lead our troops, composed of children. This space-aged war is one where humanity is being threatened to the point of extinction by an alien race. Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) finally finds his hero in Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield). The movie asks some pretty tough questions. If war is inevitable, should a military do whatever it takes to avoid total destruction? Does victory in the name of survival mean justify deploying any means whatsoever? Does a amoral victory matter at all?
The best child warriors in this odd training system cannot ask questions, and are only trained to kill. Because children soak information up so quickly, they make better soldiers. They are taught from day one about the legendary heroics of the former fleet Commander Mazar Rackham (Ben Kinglsey) and how he prevented through great strategy and cunning the annihilation of the human race during the first battle against the aliens.
Ender is different, Orson Scott Card, in the original novel says it this way,
“’In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.’”
Ender finds a way to disobey all the rules. He’s not a drone, but rather his own person. He still buys into the premise that only a small child can save the human race. Ender shows that the best hero is one who questions motive, and has his own conscience.
The film most certainly struggles to find the gravitas that is found in the book. The choices that the moviemakers made were obvious ones, they had to make an entertaining sci-fi action flick. The attention to detail in regards to the scenery is breathtaking. The battle set pieces are stunning, and they keep the movie going. The dark story of a children’s crusade is well crafted, but the characters within aren’t as much. If director Gavin Hood paid as much attention to the character development as the story and set development, this would have been an A-plus movie. Without the character development, the heaviness of the questions asked within become lost in the fray.
My recommendation is this: if you haven’t read the book, watch the movie first. Then read the book. You’ll truly enjoy both that way.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Affiliate Links: Amazon.com