A good foundation wasted.

Featuring

Asa Butterfield as Andrew “Ender” Wiggin
Abigaile Breslin as Valentine Wiggin
Harrison Ford as Colonel Hyrum Gruff
Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham
Viola Davis as Major Gwen Anderson
Hailee Steinfeld as Petra Arkanian
with lots of other kids with character names you might recognise but are inconsequential

Ender’s Game is a great book. It’s a book about mental strength, survival and growing up in a dark and difficult life with a situation that is so morally grey that only fear of the unknown and desperation n the face of a worst case scenario can explain the actions and events in the story.

The movie adaptation, unfortunately, doesn’t live up to the grandeur of the book. It has everything to do with the question “how do we fit everything in?”. Firstly, the movie depicts Ender as already a teenager on the verge of a monumental break in his voice. This alteration, where Ender is made older and more mature breaks with the original dramatically, which gives us a defining account of ten year’s of Ender’s childhood from the age of six until his final destruction of the Formics. I wouldn’t say that it’s a terrible choice at first glance, but the main issue here is believability. We, as the audience, see at some point that the assault fleet sent by Earth is about a month away from their destination using faster than light travel. This limits the time frame of Ender’s training to a couple of months at most, which is preposterously unrealistic.

Once that’s established, it becomes the root cause of most of the problems with the movie. It wants to build up this fantastic tactical genius from his start as a scrub until his most decisive and final victory against the enemy. The problem is that you see none of the growth that is needed, none of the blood, sweat and tears that he has to put in because, at the start of the story, he already IS a tactical genius. This bad pacing leads the movie to basically only reinforce his ability without actually showing where and how it came about. You see him training a bit, nearly kill a guy who’s a jerk and knock off all the other teams because he’s ace, but not all the steps he takes to get there.

One thing I thought was good about the movie though, is the depiction of Ender by Asa Butterfield. He’s tough when he needs to be (read: brings the fury), yet vulnerable and appearing to be physically weaker than everyone else. The strength of the character in truth lies in the mental capacity and fortitude of Ender, not in his ability to actually go out there and fight. He can, but he’s not a grunt and will never win a battle of pure physical strength.

If I’m honest, this is the movie adaptation of a story that deserves to be told in two parts. There’s more than enough in the story to have split it up. I suppose they thought that if they did it that way, to give the character more room to breath, they ran the risk of people not wanting to come back for the second one. Whatever the case may be, Ender’s Game the movie is poorer for it and a mere shadow of the source material. It’s a passable action movie, most likely aimed at first timers. However, if you’ve read the book, and you want to experience the story again, you’re better off doing some more reading.

Rating

If you haven’t read the book, you might think it’s pretty good. If you have read the book, you’ll think it’s merely in Ender’s Shadow.

Should I watch this?

Depends if you’re an Ender fan. It doesn’t quite live up to the original work’s message of strength and growing up with an open mind, but then again, neither does Orson Scott Card.

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