Ender’s Game has been surrounded by controversy. The book was rallied against for its support of violence and the movie was boycotted because Orson Scott Card is anti-homosexual. These controversies take away from a deep and provocative story that looks at politics, the military, and our future.
The book is an in-depth look at the future after an alien war with the Buggers. Earth came together to create an army that will fight the future of the alien threat: training young children who use their intuition and lack of biases to fight these life forms. The book details Ender’s rise to military fame and his emotional breakdown from the stresses place on him. The book became keystone reading for several military groups, and the Ender franchise took off. The movie follows the same plot changing minor points.
Even though director/writer Gavin Hood only makes minimal changes, he manages to alter the tone and change the purpose behind certain plot points. Part of this comes from the fact that the movie isn’t able to get into Ender’s head like it did in the books and Hood often fails in portraying it in the storyline. For example, Ender’s inner struggle with being a leader and the advanced pace of his training is downplayed and his explosion at the end of the movie seems out of place. In fact, the movie makes it seem like Bonzo’s death is the only reason he quit before he enters Command School.
To centralize the story, characters are given more screen time. Petra’s role in Ender’s life is increased and given more importance than in the book. And while it incorporated more of Bean, it change the characters time line as well as down played how smart, arrogant the character actually is. The movie demonizes the bad guys while making the good guys perfect saints. And none of the children are young enough. While this might be practical for filming, it really takes the enormity of the original story away.
This leads to the biggest issue with the movie. No one should have worked about anti-homosexual themes or any other political commentary. The movie is actually overly PC. Characters have changed to reflecting minority and women’s roles which in interesting because the books actually have more variety of ethnicities and gender than the movie did. There is no reference to the Bugger War; everyone just calls them Formics. This small change loses a lot of what Card was saying about humans and outsiders. Using slang for enemies is typical and part of the criticism included in the original novel. Though we see it start to change in Ender’s Shadow (chronologically parallel but written some time after the original), this is a reflection of how PC was adapting into the world and it has now completely enticed the movie.
The biggest change was the removal of politics from the film. Oh, you say, but there was so much politics with Graff and the military! That is nothing compared to the Ender Saga of books. Enders siblings are very important player in the world. Their actions and political dialogues change how regular people see the world and it sons reaches to the government. Their actions actually decide Ender’s fate. But you won’t see much of Peter or Valentine as Hood morphs the ending to come to a staggering halt instead of following into another tale.
Ender’s Game is a great science fiction movie. The special effects are beautiful and the Battle Room lives up to expectations. Asa Buttersfield does well as the boy genius Ender, and Harrison Ford is great as Graff. But like most adaptations it can’t hit the depth and thought provocation of the novel.