Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ender's Game Review

First, I should remind folks that Ender's Game is one of my favorite novels of all time (and the series is one of my favorites in general).

For the spoiler-free part of the review, I simply want to say I give the movie an 8/10 as both a stand alone movie AND a book adaptation. The only faults for me were that they rushed through the ending parts and changed the ending slightly, for no apparent reason.

The action in the movie, while not grandiose, was a lot of fun to watch and done very, very well in regards to aesthetics. I'm happy with the acting and some of the light touches of character growth that wasn't overly drawn out (one of the characters, Graff, is clearly sporting a pot belly that wasn't obvious earlier in the film, something that reflects the novel well). The handling of the communique that opened every chapter of the novel was done acceptably via private teacher conversations, and the bulk of the story fell into place nicely. Much too quickly towards the end, but nicely.

If you want to know more about that, go see the damn movie and then read the spoiler section below!


I am very happy with the selected cast. I loved Harrison Ford as Graff and I didn't hate the kid that played Ender, though he did come off as a bit whiny in parts. That's mostly the physical manifestation of Ender's thoughts as they're internalized in the books, something they couldn't do very often with useful e-mails and narration without breaking the story. The only character I think they did poorly was Mazer Rackham. Hollywood must have needed more characterization than he got in the book. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't the same character from the novel (I pictured more of a Ben Kenobi look with a military haircut), and that's enough of a detraction for me there. The fact that he's only in the movie for such a brief time didn't help -- the Ender/Mazer relationship never took form, and that's an important relationship to cast aside via a conversation about Maori tattoos.
Mazer and Ender -- Close enough, I suppose.

The character of Bean wasn't touched upon much either, and that's something I personally hoped for. I know that he's got his own book, but I don't believe for a second he'll get his own movie, so it would have been nice to have a little more of his intelligence shown, or at least the prayer he says at the end of the book to show he knows the truth of everything. Oh well.

The worst thing about the movie, as is true with most book adaptations, was that it was too short. If they'd added an additional hour, I think they could have nailed the book. There could have been more time spent on Battle School and working in some of the relationships they missed (Ender's private training sessions from the novel were removed, which would have been a perfect way to show him growing as a leader. The movie does it in a relatively effective way, but only by splashing insecurity on Ender that seems a bit out of character). There also needed to be a lot more time spent with the Command School simulations, but most of the novel then deals with Ender's internalization again, which would have been immensely difficult to pull off. That, and a three hour movie would have bored any non-Ender's Game fans, truly. Some "training montages" might have been nice, though.
Almost a fuzzy feeling here. They ALMOST had it.

There was one active change from the novel that probably bugged me the most though, even more than the speeding through sections and not giving Bean more screen time. Graff actively tells Ender (and, therefore, the audience) that they are going to an advance base where they will lead the assault on the Bugger home world -- the novel NEVER tells Ender (or the reader) that humanity is attacking the home world until AFTER Ender already destroyed it. It was a HUGE revelation that could have been done very simply in the movie and been a HUGE moment of revelation for the audience and Ender. I feel this part was simply dumbed down so no viewer would have to think back to previous scenes in the film and have the impact that Ender sent living humans to their deaths AND killing off an entire species.. Because no one wants to watch Donnie Darko, right? I understand the shift for suspense, but it was enough of a change to put me off.
But... If Donnie goes back, does that mean Patrick Swayze...

The buggers, as they were shown, were done with a lot of detail and managed to still look beautiful. This is surprising to me as a fan of campy sci-fi -- I'm happy with puppets and the like, but the CG Formic Queen was wonderful.

The dragging out and changing of the books epilogue made sense, though it wasn't as refreshing as the novel's. And the ending scene with Valentine left me a little confused -- WHY THE HELL WOULD SOMEONE GIVE THEIR INFANT A MOBILE FEATURING THE MONSTERS THAT ALMOST DESTROYED THE WORLD!? What sick and twisted parent does that!? The closest relative image I could imagine for us would be to give a Jewish child a Nazi mobile today.

Well. I'm exaggerating and I'm sure it was another point in the favor of Ender "loving" his enemy, but still, a bit twisted.

Overall, understanding that it is a movie adaptation that has to please Hollywood, I am content with the movie. I'd have loved more time, or now even a separate movie to show us what the ancillary characters were doing (Bean, Valentine, and Peter, mainly) because they were immensely interesting in the books, but at least I can always go back to said books without feeling they've been sullied by a terrible movie version. Well, except maybe Mazer's face, but I suppose I'll get over it.

What did everyone else think? Anyone as big a fan of the series as I am and have a differing opinion? Did you hate the nods to the sequels, or think it was a nice touch? Do you think we'll get a Speaker for the Dead movie next (I don't, I'd imagine a Shadow movie more likely -- though still NOT likely)?
Maybe we'll get there... But probably not.

No comments:

Post a Comment