I said in a Facebook status update that I love the book Ender’s Game. I do. I read it every year. It is one of my all-time favorite reads. In both print and even more in the unabridged audiobook. To me Stephan Rudnicki will always be the voice of Ender, and Gabrielle de Cuir the voice of Valentine.
But I had mixed feelings about going to see this film for two reasons:
1) I hate giving more money to the author Orson Scott Card, who has proven himself to be one hell of a bigot in recent years. His anti-gay rants bother me. Big time. But I am not going to allow that to not let me enjoy a dramatization of one of my all-time favorite books, which have NOTHING to do with his close-minded bigotry. His being a bigot does not take away from Ender’s Game being the award winning novel that it is.
2) I was incredibly leery of the film from the first previews. All the kids were teenagers. Enders Game is a story of children. Ender is 6 when he goes to Battle School, 10 when he graduates, 12 when he, ahem… finishes Command School. In this film all the actors are teenagers in the 12-15 year ago; the girls look to be more like 15-17. And the launch group seems to be half-girls.
But I told myself to “forget the book.” This is a movie, it is a loose adaptation of the book. Enjoy it for what it is. The teachers are still the enemy, and the enemy’s gate is down. Yeah, ok. So I said that 10 or 20 times, and went to the theater.
I managed, for the most time to keep my “why isn’t this here? why did they do that with that character? etc…” out of my view. i absolutely loved being immersed into the world of Ender’s Game, and thought some of it was really good.
I think Asa Butterfield did a great job as Ender. Same with Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley. I loved seeing Mazer sitting in Ender’s room, in that prostrate position. Just like in a drawing of it from the graphic novelization. I was sold. I could live Viola Davis cast as Major Anderson, I guess the major could be a woman. It worked.
I have ONE casting issue that I could not get away from the book with. Ender was a stinking foot taller than Bonzo Madrid? Why on earth would Bonzo even be intimidating, other than that he was a bit muscular? I wanted — No — I needed Bonzo to be a foot taller, and intimidating.
But I tried to think, If I did not know this story, would I walk away understanding it, or persuaded by it? For example, they move very quickly, it seems as if the whole story takes place in maybe a year. Ok, I guess… but did Ender do anything in that short time which would make him stand out as the one last great hope for humanity? I don’t know. It seemed forced. WHY was Ender better than Alai? Or Bean, or Petra? Or any of them?
And I started to cringe when Ender was holding Petra’s hand. I thought, NO! Don’t go there! There is no kissing in battle school!!! Luckily, that didn’t happen. But it was almost there. And if they did, I would probably have burst out swearing in Battle school slang.
My son asked me when it was over – “what was that with Valentine and the dream?” I don’t think they pulled off the ending very well. I got it; but I heard several people walking out kind of shaking their heads, “this is it?” “What happened there?”
I think the film-makers could have kept the film basically the same length and managed to spread out the story a bit. They could have made a transition with something like “two years later” or something like that. And still used the same actors. They were teenagers anyways. It might have made for a more compelling story on its own.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, was I disappointed? Not as much as I expected to be. Indeed, I’ll probably get the Blu-ray. In many ways my criticism of the film is a lot like my criticism of the first JJ Abrams Trek (No, Not about the alternate universe, don’t go there!) in terms of plot holes and plot devices that did not quite work for me (i.e., take a disgraced cadet and make him first officer of the flagship, yeah, that makes sense!). If I were to grade the film, I’d give it a low B. Still a good paper, but not quite where it could be.