Sunday, January 5, 2014

Movie Review: Ender's Game

On New Year's Day, the family and I went to the cinema.  My wife and son saw a dubbed into Korean kids' movie called "Dinosaur Adventure" (may have a different name in English, I didn't check, that's the Konglish name anyway), while I went all by my lonesome to see Ender's Game.

And I liked it. 

Short digression about the political BS, feel free to skip to the next paragraph:
Now, I know there are many people who said they were boycotting this movie for political reasons.  They don't like Orson Scott Card's devout Mormonism and his political activity against homosexual equality.  But just like I don't let Robert E. Howard's or H. P. Lovecraft's personal views on race detract from my enjoyment of their fiction, similarly I don't care that OSC may take a fraction of the $8 I spent on a ticket and possibly use it to lobby against equal treatment for gays/lesbians.  He's got a right to free speech, even if I disagree with him. 

Now that that's out of the way, on to the movie review itself.  Since the movie's been out for two months or so already in North America (it just opened here in South Korea), and since a lot of readers of this blog may also be familiar with the books, please forgive any spoilers I may have in here.

The movie opens quickly, with Ender's first confrontation with a bully after getting his monitor removed, and before you really know it, he's headed off to Battle School with Colonel Graff.  Already there are some elements being condensed, such as Bean being in Ender's launch group (or maybe I'm misremembering the novel?).  Soon, Ender has earned his launch group's respect and he's graduated to Salamander Army.  The plot moves along quickly, but yet it still manages to hit all of the important parts.

Personally, I wish they'd had more time for more of the Battle Room, but we see enough (barely) to set up some of the things Ender will be doing later when he's in Command School.  And if Battle School seemed condensed, the parts at Command School really get cut short, but it makes the movie flow well.

We skip some of the subplots.  Bernard is there, but downplayed.  We don't see anything of Valentine and Peter's subplot back on Earth, which actually was just as well.  It may play into the book sequels (haven't read them yet), but in this film it would have just been a distraction.  This is Ender's story, and they stick with him.

There were a couple of places where they soft-balled a few issues, a bit of Disney-fication.  But while I think that takes a bit away from Ender's internal struggle, the film-makers did have a lot on their plate, and this may make Ender a bit more sympathetic to a general audience.

The characters were all true to their depictions in the novel, and I think that's important.  If the plot is condensed, and the ending is modified slightly (not the salient parts, really just condensing two locations into one), the film still felt true to the source.

This is not your standard style "military sci fi," but it was well done, moving, and relays the message of the novel.  One bone to pick is that the trailers for the movie pretty much showed the whole ending of the film.  But considering that's the most "action packed" part, I can see why marketing people did it that way.  If you haven't seen it yet, and haven't read the novel, just be warned that it's not an action movie, it's a coming of age drama with a military sci fi backdrop.  Don't let that keep you away from it.  It's worth seeing.

Compared to the last movie I saw, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, this movie feels like the creators really cared about the book and wanted to bring it to the screen, rather than just making something full of sound and fury signifying nothing that would rake in a big box office.


  1. The book is on my to-read list and I have yet to get to it. Would you recommend reading the book first or does it matter?

    1. It might not matter which you experience first, but in general I'm of the opinion that reading first is better. Like I mentioned, all of the major plot points in the book are in the film, there's just more texture to the novel to enjoy.