What About Ender’s Game?

I first read Ender’s Game back when “Children of the Mind” was not yet available in paperback. I really enjoyed the novel. I enjoyed the sequels but felt that it was weird the way the two stories were melded together. I felt that Ender’s Game was fine as a self-contained story and it did not need three sequels. Today the series has over 20 books, short stories, and graphic novels that expand that universe that started out as a short story. When drawing from such a deep canon of story and character, what a film adaptation includes is a hard decision. That thought distracted me while watching the movie. I noticed the absence of key scenes, plot points, characters, and details. At each point I recognized that the changes were done in the interest of pacing and timing. It made me think about the artistry of writing a screenplay when you are constrained by screen time and production costs. So I forgave the choices made to bring the story to the screen. Well, most of them.

If you have not read the books and seen the movie then this discussion is probably not of interest to you. I’m not going to talk about spoilers directly but the story itself makes that difficult.

Ender is too old. That sounds like Yoda but it’s true. In the novel Ender is 6 when he is taken to join the IF. The story itself spans 6 years subjective time for Ender. The movie is compressed into a much shorter time. At one point we see a threat assessment on the monitor counting down 129 days remaining. We know that the movie takes place in a few months. From a production point of view this makes sense unless you are going to hire multiple actors or invest in Benjamin Buttons -style special effects.

Locke and Demosthenes are missing from the movie. The whole sub-plot with the Hegemon doesn’t really serve the main Ender story so it had to be cut from the movie. I would have liked to have seen a throw away line for the fans to tie things together but it’s not there.

Ender was not his middle name. We see Ender’s name abbreviated A. E. Wiggin in the beginning of the movie. Ender was a variation on Andrew. Valentine called him than and that’s also what he called him self. The timeline here is a bit interesting. Valentine also wore the monitor but not as long as Peter. They rejected her because of her incredible empathy. After that rejection, the IF requisitions a third child. That child has time to be conceived and born before Valentine is old enough to pronounce Andrew properly and creates the nickname. I don’t think that we know any of the children’s middle names. We know their father’s full name. We can extrapolate that the middle name would also follow a saint’s name. I don’t know of any saint names beginning with the letter ‘E’. Was there a St. Edward?

Where’s the overpopulation? We don’t see much of Earth but what we do see is scarcely populated. We see Louisiana houses under the trees and a lake surrounded by mountains. I didn’t need to see Blade Runner but I was expecting a bit more urban experience to go with the population laws.

Bean was too tall. I was expecting to see Bean played by a young little person. There also should have been some relationship reveal with Petra. There’s so much story there to build on.

Bonzo. I was surprised when I saw the actor chosen to play Bonzo. Actually the actor was fine but I didn’t think it worked to have Ender towering over him. I never felt there was a threat. The destruction ends up being a complete accident rather than an overly aggressive counter assault. The whole scene did not work for me and was further broken by the next two scenes. The book did not divulge Bonzo’s fate to Ender and certainly did not allow Ender to keep visiting Bonzo. The movie attempts to make the scene into the breaking point for Ender but I had a problem with it. This was the screenplay’s way of trying to compress the timeline.

Eros. In the book Ender never leaves the solar system until after the final battle. This supports the reality that Eros is just a training base known as Command School. But in the movie we are transported to a former Bugger colony world. This was done to support the final reveal at the end of the movie. It required Ender to travel from Earth orbit to a planet in another solar system with only 30 days left until the battle began. This requires incredible FTL travel. We’d that come from. Space is big. Really big.

Technology. The book contains the Internet, iPads, and a number of technology items that were only speculation in 1985 when the novel was released. A cerebral interface was added in the movie to the iPad which actually helps the Hive Queen communication plot point. In the novel this was enabled by Jane. There are three major technologies that are in the story that do not get proper attention in the movie.

Ansible communication should be given more attention in the movie along with the fact that we learned it from the Buggers. There should have been a like “once we knew it was possible it was just a matter of time before our scientists figured out how to do it.

Gravity control is mentioned in one of the prequel graphic novels and is the basis for the Little DR. If we have the ability to control gravity, why are we still using shuttle with rocket engines in the middle of a solar farm? If you can control gravity precisely enough to make the colonel’s hook work and have the gravity change right at the threshold of the battle room, then surely you could use it to lift a capsule out of the Earth’s gravity well.

FTL. At the beginning of the movie it looks like modern day earth with recognizable jet fighters. By the middle of the movie we are traveling to another solar system in a few days. This requires faster than light travel. That really bugged me more than some of the other changes. There should have at least been an acknowledgment that we learned it from the Buggers as well.

I don’t mean to keep criticizing the movie. I liked it. It is doing reasonably well at the box office earning back $27 million in the first weekend. Hopefully it resonates with the audience who had not read the books too. The story remains self contained. I do not see the opportunity for a sequel or shadow movie but that is for the best.

I recommend people see it even if they have not read the novels. The movie may be more enjoyable without that bias.

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