“There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong.”
My two main worries when I heard that Orson Scott Card’sEnder’s Game was going to be turned into a movie were (1) Would they be able to recreate the highly complex battle simulations that were described in the book, and (2) would people who had never read the book be able to understand it without watering the themes down. I am very happy to say that the writer/director for this film was able to give me a wonderful visual of the game and keep the thematic material of this rather cerebral novel but still make it accessible to someone who hasn’t read the book (which you should do). The movie gets an A-.
For those who don’t know Ender’s Game take place on Earth in the not too distant future. Earth is still recovering from the failed invasion of an insect like alien race called the Formics whose forces and strategy follow no known system of thought. Saved only by luck the first time, the Earth has taken to training children in high end strategic games as children’s minds seem better suited to thinking outside the box while still taking in all the information in massive space battles. Here enters Andrew Ender Wiggin–A prodigy who may possess the skill necessary to actually win the war. What follows through the movie are successive trials as Ender learns how to not only think strategically but to also be a leader.
While it was a little sad that the film cut so much of the training sequences from the book, I understand that such things might get repetitive and dull on screen (not to mention very expensive), so I am willing to forgive some of these cuts. The main point is that the training school three-dimensional, zero-G, battle simulations came off looking as spectacular as anything I had imagined without sacrificing any of the depth of the book. I really hope to find longer training sequences in a director’s cut DVD. But the strategic nature and Ender’s genius is not lost in what we do see of this game.
The film includes some very good acting from a diverse cast, although I will be the first to admit that this is neither the pinnacle of either Harrison Ford’s or Ben Kingsley’s careers…and I would hope it isn’t the high end for any of the younger members of the cast either.
If the film does have one flaw it’s that it changes a few details from the book to make the Formics just a little more sympathetic so as to justify Ender’s final actions in the film…to copy how the book handles it or in any other way I think would have taken at least another half hour of dialogue after the final battle which would have made the film very anti-climatic, so I’m willing to forgive this. On the other hand there seem to be some reviews I have seen claiming that the film is anti-war in the typical liberal vein—nothing could be further from the truth. The film is just completely honest that war has consequences and costs. Both the book and the movie make it clear that these costs are worth the price sometimes (be it for liberty or existence) but to naively pretend that there aren’t consequences to war is foolish. And while this film is not that naïve, it also is not anti-war.
Also the film has an excellent message on how people should handle bullies…and it’s none of this whinny ‘always find an adult or resolve your differences’ BS we’ve been getting over the last few years.
I would go into a lot more detail on this…but frankly if you know the book you understand why everything is tied to the ending that I can’t reveal…and everyone who goes to see it will understand after they see it.
Overall the film is an excellent, though somewhat cerebral, film that can be enjoyed whether you have read the book or not.