Film #117: Ender’s Game (2013)

director: Gavin Hood
language: English
length: 103 minutes
watched on: 10 May 2014

I read Ender’s Game back in 2010, a few months before I started this blog, mainly because it was famous. Then I found out that the author is a big homophobe, and was glad that I’d borrowed the book from a library instead of buying it. It’s a bit ironic, since his story very much appeals to anyone who’s felt alienated or singled-out by the school system – and it’s actually quite homoerotic, even though it’s about pre-teens.

The film came out near the end of last year, although not until this year in Japan, and its release was surrounded by the reignited controversy of Orson Scott Card’s homophobia, the filmmakers quick to try and encourage people to see the film on “its own merits” and the opposers quick to respond with the fact that Card will make a lot of money in revenue from the film.

The plot surrounds Ender, a boy who is being groomed by the military to launch an attack against an alien race (called Formics or nicknamed Buggers, most confusingly and amusingly when you read the book) – he is taken to a space station, where he’s trained in zero-g battle, then later taken to a former Formic outpost to practise actually attacking the aliens. Then there’s a famous twist towards the end.

The film, as generally happens, strips down the content of the book quite a lot, leaving only the essentials. It was easy to follow the plot, but like the last film I watched, Geography Club, a lot of the sequences hinted that there was something deeper to certain characters or scenes that had been stripped out. In particular, none of the characters except Ender got any significant character development throughout the film. For instance, one character is established as a bully by calling Ender names once, and then the next time we see him, he’s inexplicably on Ender’s side again.

The Battle Room scenes were another such example – a lot of detail and thought went into those scenes in the book, and they were by far some of the most interesting, and enlightening about the characters, but only two scenes make it into the movie – the rest of Ender & co’s training is only implied to be taking place in the background during a montage scene. Again, the lack of explicit development in the area made the film seem rushed. An extra ten to fifteen minutes on this (although not more than that) wouldn’t have hurt the film one bit. That said, the Battle Room was pretty much how I’d imagined it from the description in the book, so I liked seeing it in action.

The rest of the film seems to be Harrison Ford making brooding facial expressions, and there’s only so much I can take of that. The book is by no means flawless, and from such a reprehensible author it’s much better than I’d expect. Most of the film’s flaws stem from rushing the story and glossing over the characters too much – but I definitely enjoyed seeing the story in action.

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One Response to Film #117: Ender’s Game (2013)

  1. Hans says:

    I watched “Ender’s Game” on a plane, and I must say I mostly thought it’s crap. The entire premise (“Whiz kids are needed to lead battles with an alien race”) only makes sense as a plot device for a Young Adult novel – the readers may be in the right age to think of themselves as the necessary centrepiece for the survival of mankind. But any future human civilisation that would depend on such a strategy is something to be pitied. (And the reveal at the end is totally ridiculous – SPOILER ahead – what if Ender had blown the whole thing because he just wanted to experiment a bit, with nothing at stake? Or to vent his frustration?) Even if I didn’t read the book, what you say about the film being a stripped-down version of a book is something that I felt – a lot of things seem rushed or out of context. On the whole, nice to while away some hours on a flight, but nothing I’d have liked to pay money for at a cinema.

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