After almost 30 years, Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi classic Ender’s Game has finally made it to the big screen. The current state of special effects and computer graphics makes this an excellent time for the story to come off the page. However, the page is where it should have remained.
Directed by Gavin Hood, the story follows the rise of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, a young boy set in a highly futuristic version of the world we live in. The human race defeated a formidable alien invasion by a race referred to in the film as the “Formics”. Had it not been for the courage and bravery of one man, Mazer Rackham, the human race would have been exterminated. Now humans are frantically searching for the next Mazer Rackham amongst Earth’s brightest and most talented youth. To do this, these children are sent up to a space station called “Battle School” where their strengths are cultivated and tested at every turn.
Viewers attempting to follow Ender’s rise to power may find themselves confused and unsure of what is unfolding in front of them. The novel relies heavily on the thoughts of its characters and these could not be translated to screen. Without these thoughts to guide viewers, it was difficult for viewers to keep up with the already quick tempo plot progression.
The high density of the book’s content makes it difficult to adapt to film. A little under 2 hours, it was challenging to cover enough of the book in a reasonable amount of time to leave readers satisfied and viewers interested. The writers of the film cut the most reasonable story arc from the novel; however it was perhaps the most interesting.
When watching the movie, viewers may question the importance of Ender’s siblings. Just from watching the movie, it seems that they had no significance to the plot at all. However, in the novel that is just the opposite. The writers left out the portions of the book that followed the lives of Ender’s siblings, Valentine and Peter – played by Abigail Breslin and Jimmy Pinchak – on Earth. In the novel, it not only allowed the readers take a break from Ender, but readers also witness another figure slowly claw their way to power on earth. A large amount of Ender’s decision making is angled towards whether or not Valentine would agree with his rationale. Ender also uses Peter as an example of how he should not act. It is this clash of good and evil within Ender that is the exact reason he was chosen to attend Battle School over either of his siblings.
Despite the film’s shortcomings, there is a silver lining. The special effects of the film truly shined. The epic Battle School fights are truly a sight to see, with lasers firing in all directions, all while the trainees are in the middle of zero gravity. Steve Jablonsky composes the score and it strongly captures the mood of the film. Not only that, the film also has surprisingly strong lead roles. Asa Butterfield and Harrison Ford strongly portray the quite unorthodox dynamic between Ender and Colonel Graff.
For viewers who have already read the book, the movie will leave you unsatisfied as parts of the novel that were most anticipated did not appear in the film. However, for those who are entering the theatre with a fresh mind, it has the potential to please.