Ender's Game

I saw Ender's Game on Friday, courtesy of my friend Rodney and some of our mutual friends in the IT field. The most uncomfortable part of the show was the tech presentation at the front of it. I remember doing those in front of an audience of people who would much rather just watch the trailers. I'm glad that's not my job anymore.

The film itself was gorgeous, emotionally-charged, and told the story well. I had fun, but the movie definitely did not live up to the expectations the book set for it.

It was a solid film: Harrison Ford chewed the scenery, and the rest of the cast chewed back. The young man who played Bonzo was convincingly frightening, and the special effects were gorgeous. For all that, however, the movie just can't be to movie-goers what the book was to readers. Still, it was a very moving story, and while it fell short of impossible expectations, it easily cleared my threshold of disappointment. Ender's Game comes in at #15 for me this year, just shy of the Threshold of Awesome.

I have some thoughts on where it fell short for me. Battle School went by too fast, and the final scenes of discovery and connection weren't well enough supported by earlier material to pack the punch they needed to. Okay, I have a lot more thoughts than those. I suspect thousands of fans of the novel will argue for tens of thousands of hours about how the screenplay could have been better written, and that's fine. If there's one thing SF/F fans love to do it's discuss these kinds of things at great length.

Should you see it? Indulge me for a moment as I address the elephant in the room.

Unless you've been living in a vacuum, you know that there are people boycotting the film in protest of Orson Scott Card's very public political positions. There are also people seeing it as a show of support. It's been pointed out that Card is not in for producer money--he got paid when the option was exercised, and won't see more money regardless of how well the film does. On the other hand, judging by Ender's Game's position on The New York Times Bestseller list (#1 on November 10th for mass-market paperback) this movie has sold some books, and those will cut Card some royalty checks. 

Here's my take: If going to the movie will make you angry at Orson Scott Card, you should not see the movie.

I have good friends on both sides and on multiple angles in this particular debate. I go to movies because I hope to enjoy them. My only regret in seeing the film is that I know a few of my friends will feel personally hurt that I went. Of course, I also have friends who are dismayed by the gusto with which I consume the flesh of mistreated animals, and that doesn't keep me from enjoying tenderloin in my breakfast wrap. 

I went because I hoped to have fun, and I was very interested to see whether or not a project that has spent fifteen years in movie development purgatory could emerge as a successful piece of cinema. And frankly, it fell short of that. Was it good? Yes. But I don't think it succeeded.

Moderator Note regarding the comments section: Other forums have seen plenty of writing about Orson Scott Card's polarizing political statements. While I'm sure many of you have things to say in that regard, let's limit our discussion to what went right and what went wrong with the movie. I think that will be more fun.

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