Ender’s Game (the movie)

I’d excuse myself the lag in posting, but I’m not sure I have enough readers. (Though, if you are reading this, thank you!) I saw Ender’s Game the night it came out, Halloween. I saw it at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, where I’m convinced every movie should be seen. (The Castro Theater in San Francisco also suffices, art-deco-wise.) To say that I had been looking forward to this movie would be an understatement; despite my general sci-fi-naiveté, the original young adult novel by Orson Scott Card stands as one of my favorite books of all time. I read it freshman year in high school, and I can speak for the rest of my class when I say that it had a profound effect on all of us. Ender is maybe the most complex child ever written on paper. He is at once more brilliant than every adult he interacts with, yet stunted elsewhere, including his physical build. Yet he’s so much more, or not even close to, a standard sheltered nerd. He is miles above his classmates mentally, psychologically, however, and because of the technology afforded at his time and space in time and space, the powers that be recognize it and groom him to save the world. It is an especially deep experience to read this at a new school comprised of above-average-intelligence kids, as I was fortunate enough to do, and know that (pardon the bragginess) everyone else identified with him the same way, and in a slightly different way from the kids at an another school. At age 14, we were all intellectually fearless, not yet broken down by the grading curves of college. We thought we were all Ender, too.

Of course the movie was going to be a let down. I was sort of against it from the start, like I was with both Sex and the City movies, for example, or the fourth season of Arrested Development, but like those two, I also indulged myself. For better or worse, the movie put to images what I had been imagining for twelve years. Asa Butterfield, I have to say, was spot-on casting as Ender. He was short for his age, twiggy but lean, pale but not sickly, quiet but not weird. He had that certain steady presence about him, a dull rage that lay in wait for the right moments. And Hailee Steinfeld as Petra turned out really well, too. Girls grow faster than boys, and her physical dominance took me back to the days when I was taller than my male counterparts. (Oh wait, I still am.) Their great friendship and chemistry played out well on screen… until they began gazing longingly at each other.

That was where I started to get mad. Or maybe not. I can’t remember which point, exactly, pissed me off the most. Was it Harrison Ford, grumbling each of his lines as Commander XYZ? Was it Viola Davis, clearly cast as the movie’s token black person? Was it the battle room, which didn’t clearly show how the enemy’s gate is down? Was it the Salamander Army colors, which were green instead of green-green-brown, a discrepancy that I know angered my dear friend infinitely more than I did. Was it the complete absence of Locke and Demosthenes—something which this same friend pointed out to me, something I would never have remembered otherwise, something that is crucial to the book, and something that probably couldn’t even be represented on screen? Was it the flashes of Ender’s brother and sister, allowing for virtually no character development? Was it the bizarre prawn-like appearance of the buggers? Was it Ben Kingsley’s face tattoo? Was it the extremely hurried nature of the film, the reductive manner in which it summed up a beautiful, twisting, detailed story in short, unexplainable bursts? Was it the fact that, once the final battle arrived, I genuinely didn’t trust Ender even though I knew he was going to pull through, because the movie never actually showed footage of him mastering any skill necessary for smart battle play? Was it the fact that Bean got about three total minutes of screen time? Clearly I have more ranty questions, but I’ll refrain and just say: It left me wholly unsatisfied and somewhat entertained. I’m still conflicted about it, especially having since learned of Card’s despicable anti-gay marriage stance. (Though it’s comforting to know that he won’t be getting any money to further his cause.) I wonder if there’s any propaganda in there that I’ve overlooked due to reading it at such an uninformed age. I wonder how many more movies they’ll make.

I wonder how long it’ll take me to read the next book. I think that’s my first priority. I sure enjoyed the spectacle, but there were too many devilishly overlooked details for me to have enjoyed the entire experience.