Posted on | November 2, 2013 | 33 Comments
The long-awaited movie version of Orson Scott Card’s classic science fiction tale Ender’s Game hit the theaters today, and since I’ve been waiting to see it since the short story was first published, I went to see it this afternoon.
tl;dr: Beautiful and sad and horrifying and wonderful.
For those of you who have not read the book, well, shame on you. On the other hand, you’ll be surprised by the endings, so you have that going for you…to boil it down to its essence, the plot revolves around young Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, third child and (so far) most successful trainee in a program that seeks out pilots, commanders and other crew for the International Fleet, a global effort to strike back against the Formics (commonly referred to as “Buggers” in the book, but not in the movie) who attacked Earth some fifty years ago, destroying most of China and killing millions before being driven off. Ender is selected for Battle School by Colonel Graff, where he learns to fight and lead in zero gravity as training for his future role: commander of the IF’s attack fleets. Graff drives him mercilessly, manipulating Ender and his classmates so that Ender becomes a lonely but razor-sharp player of the Battle School games…at which point Graff orders him to Command School and introduces him to his enemy: the legendary Mazer Rackham.
Anyone who’s read the story (or its expansion to novel length) will not be surprised by anything in the movie, although extensive cuts were clearly made to keep the length down to two hours while still preserving the essential elements of the plot – and I suspect changes were also made to avoid blowing the whole budget on special effects. So we miss amusing moments like Ender’s transfer to Rat Army and his introduction to his new commander “Rose The Nose”; we miss the whole political subtext largely carried by his brother Peter and sister Valentine; we miss a lot of the battles that make Ender the hard, manipulative, lonely commander that he becomes. Changes are also made to the Command School portion of the story, but I’ve probably ruined enough of the movie for the purists as it is. The cast does an excellent job, from Harrison Ford as Colonel Graff and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham down to Asa Butterfield as Ender, and whoever cast Viola Davis as Major Anderson deserves a medal. Nonso Anozie as Sergeant Dap is another excellent casting choice, and the kids all turn in good performances.
Unlike the regrettable Starship Troopers Ender’s Game is mostly true to its source, and if you go in with the expectation that it will largely reflect that source, then I think you’ll probably be happy. Me, I think I’m going to try and see it again while it’s still in theaters, though if the 4 PM show I attended was any indication, it’s going to be around for a while.