Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ender's Game movie

I finally got around this week to watching the movie adaptation of "Ender's Game." Orson Scott Card's novel is one of the first science-fiction novels I ever read, probably when I was 10 or 11, and I absolutely loved it. I still do. I've gone back and forth over the years on whether "Ender's Game" or its followup "Speaker for the Dead" is the better book. I've read most of the sequels.

So the idea of a movie adaptation scared me. I was afraid they would screw it up. This fear turned out to be partially justified.

In watching the movie, I found it difficult to separate my opinions of what was on the screen from my love of the books. I tried. I really did. But I found myself making a mental list as the movie went along of all the places it diverged from the novel. Some changes and omissions were necessary to the medium, and others seems absolutely pointless, such as the weirdness of the ending.

My main issue with the movie, though, came from its rushed pacing. The script jumped from Big Scene to Big Scene without any of the little stuff in the middle, giving the movie the feel of being a Cliff Notes version of what it could have been. Most of the Battle School kids (and Valentine and Peter) were reduced to faces in the crowd. The emotional impact of what was happening to Ender and his fellow soldiers got lost amid big set pieces and fancy special effects. The "why should I care" factor was almost completely absent.

Now you might be reading this and thinking, Is there anything you actually liked about this movie? Well, yes, there was. I think Asa Butterfield and Ben Kingsley were excellent. Butterfield looks like what I imagined Ender to look like, except a few years older, and he pulled off what I always thought would be a difficult role -- a kid who is both exceptionally compassionate and a cold-blooded military commander. The battle room was visually awesome, and I wish the movie had spent more time there.

Overall, the movie is a mixed bag. It got a few things right but could have been so much better. My recommendation: Go read the book, instead.

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