Monday, November 11, 2013

Ender's Game

Books to Movies is a feature where I review movies based off books! These reviews are for people who have read the book, so spoilers are definitely within.

Rated: PG-13

Is it worth watching?

If you're a nerd, a fan of Asa Butterfield or science fiction, love CGI-rich movies, or are twelve years old, you'll love Ender's Game. I'm a fan of Asa Butterfield - he is a very gifted young actor - and I tend to sometimes enjoy movies that kids like. It reminds me of being a kid.

Is it clean?

Yes; in fact, I really don't know why it's rated PG-13. While it would probably appeal to tweens more than kids, that's simply due to interest level and not content. The aliens aren't scary, it's not violent, and there's no language.

How is the cast?

Asa Butterfield was perfect in the role of Ender Wiggin, as I knew he would be. He's really good at playing emotional characters who are trying to hide their feelings. While not a big fan of Harrison Ford, I have to admit that he was a very good Colonel Graff; I hated him even more in the movie than I did in the book. Valentine and Peter aren't in the movie much, but I liked Abigail Breslin well enough as Valentine. I am still very irked that they made Major Anderson a woman (you can't change the gender of characters; not even minor ones!), but I still liked her pretty well. All of the more minor characters - Bean, Bonzo, Alai, Bernard - were all very well cast. Bean was adorable! And Bonzo was a unlikable, jealous little twerp. I wasn't sure I was going to like how they portrayed Petra, upping her appearance in the story like they did, and I'll be honest - she didn't look how I imagined her. I didn't picture Petra with that long of hair; she always seemed too practical for that. But I did actually really like her in the movie, perhaps more so than I did even in the book. And probably unsurprisingly, Ben Kingsley was a terrific Mazer Rackham; I only wish he had been in it more.

Did the story stay close to the book?

It did; more than I thought it would. And it somehow worked. If you're reading this, you have probably already read my review of the book Ender's Game. And other than Ender Wiggin, I didn't much care for it. I was perfectly all right with them changing the story however they pleased, because it could only be an improvement. The movie does totally cut out Peter's attempt at taking over Earth and the impending war there. Considering how utterly disappointing that whole plot was in the book, I think this was a smart move. Ender's story takes up enough time the way it is; why add the complication of Peter's boring plot? But Ender's story - his training, the major events, and even the conclusion - were very close. And with the help of visuals, I enjoyed the plot a whole lot more. I still don't understand why they recruited kids, or even what the whole point of the zero-gravity room was for. Maybe they were planning on deploying ground troops when they fought the Buggers? But the planet had gravity, so why learn to fight in zero gravity like they do? So that's not explained, but the visuals helped so incredibly much in fleshing out Ender's world that I didn't mind as much as I did in the book. At last I could actually see what the zero-gravity room was supposed to look like! And the whole Battle School and even Command School! And those conversations that began every chapter, where no characters were named, made sense, too!

Did they even get the little things right?

They never called the aliens Buggers, and for that I was grateful. Orson Scott Card's alien names aren't very good. They explained the purpose of the weird fantasy game Ender played (which isn't explained in the book series until Book #2, and only then in passing). Events were sped up; Ender doesn't start Battle School when he's five, like he does in the book, but that's an acceptable change. Petra's role is upped, and the makers added a bit of flirting between Ender and Peta, but it doesn't go anywhere, so I didn't mind it as much as I thought I would.

But the ending is good, right?

The ending was excellent. While I wish they had still changed the whole misunderstood aliens plot twist, I suppose they couldn't without angering every Ender fan out there. They kept the twist, but it actually worked in the movie because we got to see the simulation battles. This kept the whole thing from being intensely disappointing. In the book, you never meet any aliens, and Orson Scott Card doesn't offer any details about the simulated battles. But it being a movie, we get to see the battles and they're pretty awesome.

So if I absolutely adore the book, will I like the movie?

It really depends on why you liked the book. If you enjoyed Peter's story, then you'll probably be disappointed that they cut his story out entirely. You may also not like that they made events move faster than they did in the book. But if you liked Ender Wiggin and general idea, but were disappointed in the execution and the lack of world building and details, you will appreciate the movie a lot. If you just enjoy alien invasion and science fiction movies, you'll like Ender's Game, too. It was a very entertaining, reasonably lengthed, and well cast movie. I wasn't disappointed at all.


  1. I'm glad the movie turned out nicely. It sounds like I may enjoy the story in this form, too. (The book did work for me at all.) And, let's face, it: with a few exceptions, you always need more Ben Kingsley. ;)

    1. It's a story that greatly benefited from visuals. And unlike a lot of CGI movies, the CGI actually wasn't overwhelming; it was genuinely awesome. There's a few lag moments, but that's when the cast makes up for it. :) Oh I know; Ben Kingsley is such a good actor.


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