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Evil Movie Reviews: Ender’s Game

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Hello evil geeks, it’s time for me to follow up on something I promised you all. The movie Ender’s Game was released this past Friday, and as I promised several months ago I was there to see it opening weekend. I suggested the novel version to you sci-fi lovers a couple months ago, as I finally picked it up this summer and was blown away. I had heard about it via the trailer playing when I went to see the latest Star Trek movie. Naturally I was super psyched for the movie, but there have been some interesting developments since I last told you about this book. Warning: continuing forward will expose you to potential spoilers and my philosophical rants.

What changed since I wrote a glowing review for this novel? The news changed, and I was surprised to find out that the author, Orson Scott Card, was staunchly opposed to gay marriage. I have to tell you, I am shocked whenever anyone is against gay marriage and I pretty much write them off as an idiot, but I was floored that the author of this forward thinking science fiction series was so bigoted. In particular, if you rad his second Ender novel it addresses religion, speciesism, sexism, and more, and he does not come off as supportive of the religious figures in his book.

I did a little digging after that, and have discovered that Card wrote several essays in the 1990’s against gay marriage, but he has more recently said that they reflected the thinking of the time and he no longer has those views today. He also initially said a nation recognizing gay marriage would be a “mortal enemy”, but after this year’s Supreme Court rulings came out to say his beliefs were a “moot point” and that he would no longer attempt to support anti-gay marriage initiatives.

I definitely see eye to eye with this science fiction guru more than Card.

I definitely see eye to eye with this science fiction guru more than Card.

There were talks of whether or not the movie Ender’s Game should have been protested because of his believes, and though I desperately wanted to see the movie I was tempted to join in, but when the company producing the movie (Lionsgate) made a statement recommending viewers still come to see the movie to support it’s message, and that their company was proud to recognize same-sex marriage as well as provide benefits to all their employees in domestic partnerships, I decided I would indeed go to see the movie, even if I did feel a little weird about it.

I am very glad I saw the movie as it was a great rendition of the book. It is so nice when a script sticks as closely as they can to the novel it was based on for us readers out there, and I was thrilled they did so.

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Let me set the scene a little for you: many years in the future a race of sentient aliens that look very much like insects known as “The Formics” attacks the earth, nearly destroying our planet to colonize it until one courageous commander, Mazer Rackham, completes a mission that destroys their fleet. Flash forward 50 years and the humans have been training the genetically perfect soldiers from childhood to be the leaders in the second war they expect to follow when the bugs return.

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Enter Ender, a very young boy just in elementary school’s whose aptitude tests are off he charts. The adult leaders of the training program realize he is the human race’s only hope, but decide the best way to mold him to be the perfect Formic-killer is to isolate him, to make him have to fight for himself and earn his way to the top through a school of cut throat, bullying kids. As I watched the movie I realized that was something they did very well: they portrayed all the bullying scenes and painful situations Ender had to conquer before he ends up in the lead. Nothing is easy for Ender, but he proves his strength and his ability for compassion as he starts to earn the trust of other misfit students during his trials and tribulations.

This bully definitely has a Napolean complex.

This bully definitely has a Napoleon complex.

Now I absolutely adore Harrison Ford, but his role as Principal Graff was spot on, making me hate him.  The only thing Graff cares about is making Ender the most likely student ever in order to fulfill his role as the Formic-destroyer. Sadly for Ender this involves purposefully putting him in impossible situations, and having a callous attitude towards feelings and loved ones since all that matters is Ender be the ultimate leader.

I still adore him even though Ford plays a jerk...

I still adore him even though Ford plays a jerk…

One thing that I enjoyed in the movie but there was really no way to include all of the book’s scenes was the battle room. In the novel the battle room is the primary place where the students learn tactics and battle-fighting skills. The students are split in to teams and forced to fight with benign guns that freeze the opponents’ muscles up for several minutes in a large battle room at zero gravity. Naturally in the novel there was a great bit of detail describing most of the battles, and in particular Ender’s amazing ability to out-manuever any team he was put up against, even two teams at once! The movie did show several of these scenes in a fun and majestic way, though they could only fit in a couple battle scenes, not the dozens in the books.

I am not very violent, but I think I would have a blast in the zero-G battle room.

I am not very violent, but I think I would have a blast in the zero-G battle room.

Once we get towards the end of the movie Ender passes ahead of all the battle school class and gets shipped away to commander school. There he is accompanied by his misfit friends as they each command a large starship in various video game simulations trying to be prepared for when they do this in real life to attack the Formic’s home planet. Eventually his graduation day approaches and he is told he has one final simulation to run with his team. Just like in the book, it is actually over before you know it. Ender might have been struggling with sleep deprivation and constant runs through the simulator, and he comes in to this last fake battle expecting to lose only to blow up the entire Formic planet in a move that would make Wilhuff Tarkin wet himself with joy. Lights on, simulation over, and guess what Ender: that wasn’t a simulation. You just successfully destroyed the entire Formic planet and committed xenocide against an entire species. They did a great job with this scene, seeing all of Ender’s grief as he realized he unwillingly killed thousands of sentient beings.

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Luckily there is a hope for redemption, and this was the only part of the movie where they strayed from the book. Ender continues to have the nightmares that have been bugging him (no pun intended) and realizes that his computer game and dreams have been a message from the Formics. In the novel it takes years for him to find the hidden burial spot of the last living Formic Queen cocooned on a distant planet, but in the movie to speed things up (and avoid using an adult actor to play Ender) he is able to discover this cove on the planet where commander school is housed. The conclusion sets you up for book 2, Speaker For The Dead, where Ender continues to travel the galaxy in the hopes of eventually finding a peaceful resting spot for the Formic species to be reborn.

The only complaint I have about the movie is the music. I know you all haven’t heard my general pondering about music’s role in movies, but you should start pestering the geeks to do a podcast about it sometime. I personally consider myself an expert in critiquing music in the movies since my iPod is full of over 500 soundtrack songs. For someone like me who knew what would happen throughout the movie I was pleasantly surprised with how true to the book they were, but for someone who had never read the book the music might have thrown them off. Yes, this movie was an “epic”, but there were multiple conversational scenes that were meant to be powerful though were accompanied by blaring battle scene orchestral feats. The music was definitely ramped up, and could leave you on the edge of your seat waiting to see more murder, mayhem, explosions, and alien destruction when all that would follow was a pivotal moment in Ender’s training. So don’t get all hot and bothered when you see this movie and are waiting for some crazy villain to pop out of a corner and rip someone’s head off, sadly the music was just turned on way too loud with scenes where you are meant to take away a message.

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Otherwise this was a very enjoyable movie, and I strongly recommend that you read the book before seeing the movie to maximize your enjoyment.

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Posted on November 6, 2013, in Evil Movie Reviews, Movies, Recommendations, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great review. All in all I thought this was a pretty faithful adaption of the book. It felt sped up with a lot of the redundant parts (that add to the books enjoyment) taken out and I can definitely understand that. The book does a much better job highlighting Ender being mentally abused and psychologically broken down at Battle School. It’s also one of the only movies i’ve seen in a long time where I wasn’t embarrassed by the special effects. Everything looked fantastic.

    I agree though, definitely read the book prior to seeing the movie!

  1. Pingback: Evil Movie Review: Ender’s Game (Counterpoint Edition) | "The Brotherhood of Evil Geeks"

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