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410 of 434 people found the following review helpful.
My favorite science fiction book works reasonably well on the big screen
By Steven Aldersley
I’m a big reader of science fiction, and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series is probably my favorite. The only things that come close are Hyperion by Dan Simmons and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. I’ve read Ender’s Game more than 10 times, including two or three occasions on which I finished it in a single sitting. One of my college papers is based on the novel and is published on Card’s website.Yes, I’m a fan.So, as you can imagine, I have been looking forward to an Ender’s Game movie long before I ever thought it might happen. For me, it had the potential to be the best science fiction movie ever made, if done well. After assembling a strong cast, my expectations could not have been higher as I sat down to watch the IMAX version today.The basic premise is that an alien race, known as the Formics or Buggers, invaded Earth fifty years ago. The invading fleet was defeated, but another attack is expected. In order to be ready to face a species that learns from its mistakes, the International Fleet has come up with a strategy: A program was established to observe the behavior of young children, hoping that the best young geniuses of the time would be able to become the top military strategists by the time they were needed. Ender Wiggin was chosen as one of the trainees.The movie deviates considerably from the book, but it’s necessary. I am not here to tell you why the book is better, I’m here to tell you whether Ender’s Game works as a movie. However, I must explain some of the key differences. In the book, Ender begins his training at the age of six, while all of the trainees in the movie appear to be 15 or older. I understand that it would be impossible to find dozens of 6-year-old actors capable of carrying this story. Also, the sequence of events is different. Bean, who is a key character, meets Ender immediately, rather than a few years into his training. Ender’s training is supposed to take around eight years, but it seems to happen in months.The biggest weakness of the movie is the way the battle training is condensed. Again, I realize that few people would want to watch four hours of training, but some of the suspense is missing because so little time is devoted to key events. Some events in the book seem unfair to Ender, but without the background information, anyone who hasn’t read the book will miss the significance. Whenever I read Ender’s Game, I become Ender Wiggin and experience the satisfaction of his achievements. I’m glad to say that I experienced similar feelings during the movie.IMDB claims that the movie is an action movie, but that’s not the case. Don’t go into this expecting battle sequences or laser fights. They do exist, but not in the form you might expect. I am actually impressed that Hollywood didn’t ruin the movie by trying to include too much action.Ender’s Game is essentially about leadership, and why individuals choose to follow certain people. Everyone in the school is a genius, but Ender is a good leader because he gains the trust, loyalty, and even love of his followers. The book is full of tactics, and we see Ender and his army discover and develop skills over the course of several years. The armies are comprised of 40 soldiers who are typically split into four Toons of 10 soldiers during battle. I doubt a casual viewer will come away from this movie even knowing what a Toon is. We certainly aren’t shown how Ender’s Dragon Army uses tactics that are completely new. On the plus side, the ending could not have been better, and I was excited to see an important scene present and handled well.So, does this movie work at all?As someone who knows all of the background to Ender’s story, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it come alive on the big screen. The acting was good and the special effects spectacular, although my Kiwi friend reliably informs me that Ben Kingsley butchered the accent. Most of the key events in the book are touched upon, and a fan of the series will automatically catch the references and fill in the blanks. A complete newcomer to the story will probably have a good time, but come away wondering why Ender’s Game is often regarded as the best science fiction book ever written.I hope that the movie will be successful enough to spawn a sequel. Speaker for the Dead is a much deeper story, and shows what happens to Ender after the war. However, with some people boycotting the movie due to their dislike of Card’s politics, I’m not sure whether a sequel will be possible.I’ll be adding Ender’s Game to my collection as soon as it is released on Blu-ray, but it would be wrong of me to automatically give it 5/5 just because I love the books. That said, it’s a good attempt to make a coherent story out of very difficult material. It’s hard to show people thinking. If you do like the movie and haven’t read the book, I urge you to do so. I imagine it would considerably enhance any future viewings.By the way, the trailer gives away almost everything.
109 of 121 people found the following review helpful.
great adaptation, but not enough time
I’ve seen a lot of complaints that this movie didn’t cover every scene, plot twist, character development, etc. in the book. It seems like many reviewers still don’t understand just how different novels and movies are as creative media. For movies, time is precious – most movies have only around 2 hours to tell their story – whereas books generally don’t face a hard limit on the page count. Moreover, movie are expensive to make whereas books are cheap (basically the author’s living expenses and and market campaign).Looking at Ender’s Game as a movie and not just as an adaptation of the book, it actually holds up very well. Asa Butterfield manages to subtly portray both a ruthless and compassionate side to Ender. The rest of the actors generally do a good job bringing their characters to life, which is no small accomplishment give that most of them are kids. Even though the kids are older than their counterparts in the book, they still look, feel, and act like kids. Ender’s voice even cracks a bit, like a kid going through puberty. While Ender and Petra do have quite a few scenes together, I was very pleased to see that Hollywood didn’t try to insert romance into their relationship.Gavin Hood, the director, obviously realized that he wasn’t filming the book and the script makes some significant but smart changes. The arc of Ender’s siblings – Peter and Valentine – is drastically curtailed (even in the book, it was only peripheral to the main plot). More importantly, Ender’s character arc isn’t quite as exhaustive or exhausted as in the book. I appreciate that Hood implicitly acknowledges that movie Ender hasn’t been at Battle School nearly as long as book Ender and the movie doesn’t try to cheat and shortcut that experience. Ender’s arc feels appropriate for what we see in the movie and going further probably wouldn’t have been possible in 2 hours.Without spoiling anything, I was also impressed that they spent at least some time on the denouement. Not since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King have I felt so glad that a movie took time to give its characters at least some room to experience the fallout of events. Again, it’s not the book, but the the essentials of the store are there.That said, I kept finding myself frustrated that the movie wasn’t longer than 2 hours. There were parts that felt rushed or condensed. The beginning in particular has an odd way of introducing Ender’s universe to audiences, most of who are not familiar with the book. The first 10-15 minutes are probably more confusing as the movie really throws you into the story pretty quickly. I thought overall the movie was better paced as it progressed, but even later scenes could have used more time to simmer. If anything, I thought the movie included too much from the book and tried to cover too much ground at the risk of not developing the main plot sufficiently. Some important characters, such as Mazer Rackham, just don’t leave much of an impression because we don’t spend enough time with them.I almost got the sense that Gavin Hood was forced by the studio to do some last minute editing to shorten the film. I would have thought that Good could have convinced the studio to allow a longer movie given the popularity of the novel, but that extra half hour probably would mean at least one less showing per day in most cinemas. I can only hope we’ll see an extended version on DVD.Overall, this is a well done, if condensed, version of the Ender’s Game novel. It’s probably much more faithful to the book than most movie adaptations of novels (certainly more so than say the Hobbit). If you go into the movie with an appreciation for the realities of filmmaking, I suspect most fans of the book will enjoy seeing their favorite characters come to life. Rating: 4.5 stars.
96 of 110 people found the following review helpful.
THOUGHT PROVOKING and MEMORABLE
By Chris Kennison
“Ender’s Game”, a 1985 novel from Orson Scott Card, is the subject of a new film and director Gavin Hood (X:Men Origins: Wolverine). It is a science-fiction action film with an uncharacteristic premise. It is uncharacteristic in the sense that as a science-fiction action film, it is less eventful and more thoughtful. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is an extremely gifted kid with the mentality for success in battle. He is closely watched by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and quickly moved up the ranks of a futuristic military academy.An alien species called the ‘formics’ or in the book, ‘the buggers’, are threatening earth’s existence and desperate moves are needed to be made. “Ender’s Game” does have elements that are similar to two films in my opinion, but seeing as though the book came out in 1985, those films appear to be inspired by the book. Those movies are “Full Metal Jacket” (1987) and “Starship Troopers” (1997). The film focuses on the training of military recruits preparing for war against bugs and it makes a broad statement about war and its effect on the human condition.This is easily the best thing that Harrison Ford has done in years and his performance is only bolstered by the performance of sort of unknown Asa Butterfield. Butterfield encompasses everything needed to portray a complex and challenging role. Maybe his previous performance in a rare gem like “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” prepared him for such an emotional and deep character. Much is placed upon the shoulders of the teenager Ender Wiggin and Butterfield was flawless at bringing you into an inner-turmoil that many times can only be described in a book.I wondered why “Ender’s Game” was not a summer blockbuster release because the effects are well done and the movie looked like a blockbuster type thing, but now that I’ve viewed it, I understand its release completely. This isn’t a blockbuster release type film. This is a thoughtful film, more suitable for Oscar season and a more thoughtful movie-goer. The movie challenges you to question things and rethink things, just as its lead character does, separating him from others.The ending of the film seem to be rushed and thrown together; most undoubtedly to prepare this film for a possible franchise of films, but that would be the only thing that I disliked about it. Not that the ending was bad, but in a film that was already near 2-hours, what happened in its final minutes, to be done properly would have required at least another 20 or 30 minutes that the creator decided to forgo. Otherwise, “Ender’s Game” is loaded with solid performances and intelligence.
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