On Friday, I went to see Ender’s Game, the highly anticipated movie adaptation of the classic 1985 sci-fi novel. I had high hopes for the movie because the novel was one of my childhood favorites*. I also thought the movie might be pretty good because the author of the book, Orson Scott Card, was involved as a producer and because the movie starred Harrison Ford (usually good things happen when Harrison Ford gets involved in a sci fi/fantasy movie).
Let’s start with the good. The child actor playing Ender did a reasonable job of carrying his role – he wasn’t terrible. I don’t think there’s been another child actor who’s been asked to carry a movie for quite some time. In addition, I enjoyed seeing some of the technology of the book visually fleshed out onscreen – some of the CGI’ed things like the battle room and Battle School were imaginative and detailed.
Unfortunately, those are about all the positives that the movie offered. First, there were small, irritating changes in the details – why was Graff suddenly turned into the villain? Why did they change the Little Doctor from a weapon present on every ship to a singular, special weapon? Why was Bonso Madrid’s character played by someone even tinier and wimpier than Ender? Most of these changes had the effect of making the children seem less talented and less innovative than portrayed in the book.
Ultimately the plotline was also massively simplified and shortened. I appreciate that there was a lot of content to get through, but this had a massively negative effect – I left the theater with the feeling that, rather than having just read a novel, I had read a book report or the Cliffnotes of a novel. Sure – I got the gist of the plot and what had happened, but at no point did the story draw me into a different world. Overall, I give the movie 6/10. (9 or 10 represent an terrific movie like Inception or the Dark Knight, 1 would represent a movie that I would literally walk out of, and 5 is a movie that I am on the fence about whether I regret seeing it).
*Random side-bar: I think children often grow up feeling unimportant and ignored, living as they do in a world that is mostly run by adults. Therefore, any novel that the elevates the importance of its child characters raises its chances of being beloved by young people. Ender’s Game elevates its child characters’ importance to the extreme – it places the fate of the human species on their shoulders.