Ender’s Game. The exploration of the ‘game’ of war as played by incredibly smart and talented children. Yes, children.
My father and roommate were both interested in this film when we heard it was coming out. My father really enjoyed the books as a young man (and still does to this day) and my roommate was excited about it. I had never read the books, never even heard or really considered Orson Scott Card’s works in any shape. But I do love a good sci-fi story and I love stories that have real heart to them. And I have a passion for film adaptations of books.
So my first step was to read the book. Let me just say, Orson Scott Card is an incredible writer. All at the same time, he had me loving and hating Ender, disgusted and thrilled at the games, intrigued and frustrated by the politics. This book is so complex and yet at the same time, it is so simple. And now, after watching the movie, I feel it caught that simple idea.
Now I literally went from book to movie. I finished the book during a break at work in the morning, and came home and watched the movie in the afternoon. So pardon me, because both are kinda fresh in my mind, but yet neither strikes me as being better or being terribly different. There are differences. Please note that spoilers will follow to fully illustrate my points.
The first major difference is Ender’s age. In the book, Ender goes from a 6 yr old boy to a 10 yr old defeater of the buggers (term the book used). In the movie, it seems that Ender is set up from day 1 as a boy of about 12, I would guess. He’s not as young as in the books, which actually has several film related practical reasons. 1. You only have to cast one person in the role of Ender if you make him almost into puberty. 2. It makes more sense to condense down the timespan. For the film, I think the age of Ender worked, especially since everyone else was also around his age. But that is a big change, so change 1.
Next is the time span. The events of the story spread across 4 years in the book. In the movie, I kinda got the impression that only about 1 year tops passed. I could be wrong, seeing as they did skip past most of the dull, tedious stuff in the school and such in the film. But that was my impression. On one hand, this is a big deal. One doesn’t get the full feel for Ender and his friends or get to see all different kinds of relationships that they built in the book. However, it does keep this from being a six film series (not that they shouldn’t consider one day making a mini series or tv show from this). And it keeps things moving in a way that doesn’t leave us totally hating Ender before the end. I’m not saying that you can’t have a good film and hate the lead, but it usually doesn’t work that way. And for this film, the filmmakers needed you to fully emphasize with Ender when the screen came up at the end and he realizes that he has fully wiped out the Formics and has been fighting a real war with these games. And realizes how much he has been lied too. So I think for the film, it worked.
Also, we don’t get any of the political stuff played out by Valentine and Peter on earth while Ender is training in space. Which would make a whole film on it’s own (that is why this would make an amazing mini series), yet would 1, take away from Ender’s story and 2, make the film REALLY long. I am sorry we missed out on the political stuff, but for the story the filmmakers chose to tell in the movie, it would not have quite fit in like they needed it to.
But what I found most interesting is that in both the film and the movie, the idea that there is this boy who is being turned into this amazing weapon and losing his own humanity. He always fights to win. Yet in the fight to win, he starts to lose himself. Who he is, the control he has over his own choices and life. That concept, expressed differently in both mediums, is still there and is what gives the power and intrigue to Ender’s Game and can help to explain why it has lasted as long as it has.
Overall, I would give Ender’s Game the book a rating of 8 stars. And the movie, I would give a rating of 7 stars.