Friday, January 31, 2014

FILM REVIEW: Ender's Game

Ender’s Game is the 2013 film adaption of the Orson Scott Card novel. It was released on the 1st of November 2013 and stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford and Hailee Steinfeld. Ender’s Game is one of the most well known and popular science fiction novels around.


The Earth was ravaged by the Formics, an alien race seemingly determined to destroy humanity. Seventy years later, the people of Earth remain banded together to prevent their own annihilation from this technologically superior alien species. Ender Wiggin, a quiet but brilliant boy, may become the saviour of the human race. He is separated from his beloved sister and his terrifying brother and brought to battle school in orbit around earth. He will be tested and honed into an empathetic killer who begins to despise what he does as he learns to fight in hopes of saving Earth and his family.


I was definitely late to the Ender’s Game novel which is huge in the sci-fi literary community despite the questionable views of Orson Scott Card. The book sucks you in despite being one of the largely depressing stories I have ever read, the thing is though the story is grim for a reason so it is ultimately an enjoyable experience.

I could be considered a book freak and I have a chequered past, we will not speak of most of the Harry Potter films, in fact the only shining example of a book to film translation I can think of is Odd Thomas. So I went into Ender’s Game slightly worried that it would be more of the same especially given this is a story that takes place almost entirely in Ender’s head I shouldn’t have been worried though because even though there are significant changes from the book you aren’t left puzzled by the plot developments or character motivations.


So if you have come this far into the review and are planning to go check this film out then let me point out something that I would have liked to know going in though it would not have stopped me watching. Valentine and Peter are pretty much after thoughts in this film and are included only as much as they are needed to march on Ender’s plot. So their plots back on Earth where they pretty much take over are gone, the stuff after the final battle also gone.

OK now that is out of the way we can move on to what made it into the film which is still rather a lot despite a little compression to fit it into a film. If you think that they took the violent stuff out of the story to lower the rating well actually they didn't and those scenes should make even the toughest person wince.

Apart from the bucket loads of young male angst in Ender’s Game there is also the awesomeness of the matches to break up the monotony. I must confess to absolutely geeking out when I saw the first zero gravity battle. The battles are everything you could hope for after reading about them and they help to show off best Ender’s creativity especially given a lot of the back and forth in Ender’s head is cut from the plot.

So far I have talked a lot about the reader’s probable reaction to Ender’s Game but I feel like should look at things from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the book and knows next to nothing about the book. If I were such a person I would ask the following, does the plot make sense i.e. has the translation to screen resulted in a storyline that can no longer be followed if you were not familiar with the original story. 

Ender’s Game the film is probably best thought of as an action adventure with a brain, strip away all the layers and it is a film about the harsh reality of war and what it does to the soldiers invested in it, granted though when I describe it like that is sounds a lot more sombre than it appears in execution.

In closing Ender’s Game is a good book to film translation it could have been excellent with the inclusion or even significant mention of Peter’s and Valentine’s story but their exclusion is understandable, fans of the book should come out of the film reasonably content with what made it to screen and their friends and family along for the ride should be rewarded with an entertaining film with a central character struggling with the darkness he fears is inside him.

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