FILM REVIEW
Ender's Game

I first read Orson Scott Card’s novel ‘Ender’s Game’ when I was a teenager.  It quickly became one of my favorite books of all time and Card quickly became one of my favorite authors.  I attended a panel at NYC Comic Con several years ago where Card spoke about an ‘Ender’s Game’ film and his attempts to get it onto the big screen.

Then something bad happened.  Card became more and more vociferous about his negative views towards gay marriage.  It’s one thing to hold views, but it’s another to actively campaign against equality.  I cannot force a person to change their beliefs, I can only hope that through actions and tolerance that they can come around to realizing that they are wrong.

After an ill-conceived column Card wrote where he tried to make himself look like the victim after actively campaigning against gay marriage laws, I had to take a stand.  No more would I ever purchase an Orson Scott Card book.  Yet I am still weak, and despite his beliefs I still enjoy his writing.  So I have no qualms about getting a novel used or borrowing one off someone who had already purchased it.  The idea is to make sure Mr. Card never received another penny from me.

This is the same idea that many people formed when they called for a boycott of the finally-realized Ender’s Game film.  If Orson Scott Card is going to spout off against marriage equality, why not show the world that he will not be tolerated by making sure his first film adaptation flops?  While the reasoning is there, it’s flawed for me.

You see, the film studio that worked on Ender’s Game, Lionsgate, is one of the most pro-LGBT companies in America.  They have offered marriage benefits to all employees, gay or straight, for several years.  They support LGBT rights and planned to host a benefit to raise money for LGBT rights at an Ender’s Game premier.  They have also done the intelligent, common-sense thing of distancing themselves from Card.

So after lots of research and thought, I decided that yes, I will still see Ender’s Game.  To me, boycotting a movie based on a novel doesn’t do much in the scheme of things to financially harm the author.  It would harm the studio, the actors, and all the employees far more than the man who has already been paid.  By all means, contact Lionsgate and let them know that you will tolerate no more film adaptations of his.  (I have a feeling we won’t be seeing any more Card adaptations anytime soon anyways, because the public outcry for this one has already been so fierce.)

If you want to hit Card in the wallet, boycott his novels.  Don’t attend his events.  Skip his panels at conventions.  Show him that until he wises up or shuts up, you will no longer support his work.

That’s my personal justification for going out and watching Ender’s Game this weekend.  You may not agree with it, you may think it’s selfish justification, but it’s there.  I support LGBT rights, I have attended public events, and I have and will always support marriage equality.  It doesn’t matter who you love, man or woman.  Everyone has the right to a divorce lawyer somewhere down the line.  So no, I don’t feel bad about going to a movie and watching one of my favorite novels make it to the big screen.

So now that my screed is over, I’m sure you’re wondering just what I thought about the film itself.  Sure, let’s talk about a movie!

Ender’s Game is one of the few film adaptations (of novels I’ve read) where I can confidently say that they got everything into it that they reasonably could.  They made necessary changes here and there and of course don’t go into as much detail with people’s inner thoughts, but they did a good job of getting the really necessary stuff out there.

Running at nearly two hours, it may not be as chock-full of everything like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it’s a much, much better adaptation than, say, 75% of Stephen King’s novels.

Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) is a prodigal third child.  Normally only two children are allowed per family, but because his older siblings Valentine (Abigail Breslin) and Peter (Jimmy Pinchak) came very close to qualifying for Battle School, his parents were allowed to have one more kid.  Fortunately for them and humanity, Ender seems to be exactly what Battle School wants and the world needs.

For you see, Ender has all the necessary abilities required to become a full-fledged commander and military genius.  He understands tactics, can respond to any situation, and most importantly he can understand people to the point that he can predict their actions.  But what happens when you put a military genius on a space station filled with them?

Oh yeah, and why the hell do we need child soldiers anyways?  Because humanity was nearly wiped out a few decades ago by a race of aliens called the Formics.  These bug-like creatures almost destroyed Earth, and humanity has decided to take the fight to them.  But before mankind can counterattack they need to make sure the best and brightest commanders are at the helm.

So Ender is taken into space and placed in Battle School to learn tactics, military philosophy, physics, mathematics, and all sorts of really fun stuff.  On top of that, there’s the battle room.  This is where different teams compete in a zero-g environment.  They wear special suits that will freeze up when hit by modified guns.  This teaches hands-on tactics and lets the students compete against each other without bloodshed.

Ender quickly proves himself to truly be better than everyone else, so he is sent to Command School to try his hand at tactical simulations of man vs. formic.  Here he conducts large-scale battles, getting ever closer to the simulated Formic home planet.  Probably.

I was happy that the Mind Game made it into the film, as it was a big part of the book.  This is a computer ‘game’ that responds to the subconscious thoughts and fears of the player and also tests their ability to handle frustration in unwinnable situations.  It was cool seeing it on the big screen and it did its part to flesh out Ender’s thoughts and fears a little bit.

All the other characters from the film are here, with a few changes.  Harrison Ford is Colonel Graff, and I really don’t remember the character from the novel being this cranky.  I’m pretty sure Harrison Ford is no longer acting, he’s just playing a crotchety old man from now on.  Major Anderson is now a female, played by Viola Davis.  She’s fantastic in what little screen time they give her.  Then there’s Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham, the man who saved the Earth the first time around.  His character’s been lessened a bit here, but again it’s most likely due to film length.

All of Asa Butterfield’s child co-stars are also fine in the film, but I really wish they had been able to develop them a bit more.  Bean especially is very important to the plot and Ender’s character, but the only way you know it is because he’s always smiling and nodding.

The special effects are fantastic and the battle room was everything I had hoped it would be.  I do think it’s a bit of a shame that so much of the book had to be attenuated to fit into a 2 hour film, because I would have enjoyed two straight hours of battle room fights.

If you’re a fan of the book, the movie should not be disappointing.  If you’ve never read it, they do a great job of filling you in.  I’m not sure Ender’s Game is going to haul in a ton of new followers/readers, but in a November chock-full of huge movies, it manages to hold its own.

Ender’s Game: B+