A few weeks ago, I reviewed the book Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card; that review can be accessed by clicking HERE. This evening I went to see the film based on the book and was frankly blown away by this film. Many of the superlatives that come to mind cannot come close to describing how much I enjoyed seeing this film. It is based very closely on the book with a few differences; however the story of Ender Wiggin remains intact in the film.
Fifty years before the events of the main story takes place, Mazer Rackham becomes a hero by defeating a race of beings known as the Formics, an insectoid race that sought to colonize Earth as the sought out water. It was thought that Rackham had made the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life to save the population of Earth.
Those events prompted the training of children to find the ultimate commander to stop a second Formic invasion that would certainly end civilization on Earth. The children of the Wiggin family were seen as possible candidates to command the final defeat of the Formics and thus end the possibility of further conflict. It was determined that Ender, the youngest of the three Wiggin children would be best suited to the task. He is removed from his family and taken aboard a training facility that orbits the earth.
Ender undergoes training under the watchful eye of Colonel Graff, who manipulates situations that allow Ender’s leadership abilities to grow stronger. While Ender is a formidable young man, he embodies qualities found in both of his siblings. His brother, Peter seems to be a very cruel while Ender’s sister, Valentine is far too compassionate to be an effective commander. The qualities of Peter and Valentine are well balanced in Ender making him the ideal candidate.
In Battle School, Ender takes numerous classes, plays computer simulations, and trains in the Battle Room. As he develops according to Graff’s agenda, Ender is promoted and given his own “Army” to command. In one simulation, he defeats his former commander, Bonzo. Bonzo decides that he is going to take revenge on Ender, but is again defeated, and severely injured. Upset that he has done this, Ender decides to quit and returns home. Graff persuades Valentine to talk ender into returning to Battle School and complete his training and move on to Command School.
Much to Ender’s surprise, he and Graff are transported directly to Command School where Ender is to be trained by none other than Mazer Rackham. Rackham is responsible for programming the battle simulations that Ender and his command crew perform during training.
Finally, Ender is sent into the simulator for his final simulated battle with the Formics. What ender doesn’t know is that he is actually commanding a real fleet that is making an attack on the Formic home world. His strategy during battle is very successful resulting in the genocidal destruction of the Formic race. When he is informed of this, he is insensed.
The film ends with Ender finding on remaining member of the Formic race guarding an embryo. He takes the embryo and launches on a small vessel to find an appropriate planet for this embryo to repopulate the Formic civilization.
This story is a stripped down version of the book. It would have to be to tell the story. The story has been shortened in many ways leaving out much detail of Ender’s training, his relationships with his fellow students, and his relationship with his siblings. One large part of the story as portrayed in the book that has been completely left out of the film is the political narrative of Peter becoming a commentator that would eventually allow him to wield great political power. The sole focus of the film is Ender’s story, and it is extremely well done.
One of the most impressive aspects of this film is the soundscape of the film. When ships launch, one can feel the rumble and I can only believe that it is much like it would be if one were to actually see a launch in person. This detail of the film was perfectly done and I was stunned throughout the entire film by this. At the same time, the background music was also perfectly fitted to the action and added much to the emotion of the production.
The performances of Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield as Graff and Ender were brilliant. I really had the feeling that Ford did his homework for this movie and channeled Graff as perfectly as anyone could have. Ben Kingsley as Rackham was well done and very accurate to the character from the book, but unfortunately, he didn’t get the character development that he would have deserved, but that was only due to time restraints. Graff’s assistant, Major Anderson as played by Viola Davis was also well acted and an important part of the film acting as Graff’s conscious. I got the feeling that the film’s director and writer, Gavin Hood was also well read on Ender’s Game and did an outstanding job of telling the story that is relevant to a science fiction audience.
As is the case with most films using CGI, the visuals are stunning and believable. It isn’t too difficult to suspend one’s disbelief during this film and become immersed in the story.
As I mentioned in my review of the book, there is much controversy surrounding the political and social views of the author, Orson Scott Card. He has enraged many people with his views on several subjects to the point that many are calling for a boycott of the book and the film. I am not going to go into where I come down on any political or social views put forth by anyone on either side of these issues. You can say that I am copping out is you want to, but this is, after all a sci-fi blog and I will not turn it into a political forum. I have friends that are on both sides of the issues that are causing the controversy, and I have a great deal of respect for many of those friends.
Suffice it to say that I have never put any author, film maker, composer, or producer of art under a microscope to see if I agree or disagree with their political, religious, or philosophical points of view to decide whether I will or will not consume their product in the past, nor will I begin doing so now. What I value for the purposes of what I choose to consume is the potential for entertainment value.
I learned about Ender’s Game from a trailer before another film I watched earlier this year. What got me interested was that Harrison Ford was in the cast. I had heard about the book from time to time over the years and had been intending to read it for some time. The film trailer is what prompted me to read the book. I have to admit that I was not aware of the author’s political and social views, nor did I much care. I have my own views, opinions, and philosophies and I choose to think for myself on these matters. So I didn’t read the book or watch the film with the intention to support the opinions of Orson Scott Card, nor did I read the book and see the film to spite those that disagree with his opinions.
I just wanted to be entertained for an evening. And I was.
Well, there it is…