So here comes the first in a series of exciting movie releases this season, from YA novel adaptations, to more Disney-Hans Christian Andersen films, to a film about a film about a book, to more epics from Peter Jackson. First on my list is “Ender’s Game.”
Just to not completely ignore the issue, I will say before moving on to talk about the film itself, that I read the book, adored the book, and read it under the philosophy that a work and its author should not be judged equally and inextricably. While I do not agree with Orson Scott Card’s political, religious, and social opinions and find many of them to be repulsive, I saw none of that in his novel and honestly love the book so much that it was not a question whether or not I was going to see the film. It was simply a matter of knowing when to separate the art from the artist, which is very tough. I understand and respect those who boycotted the film, but I was not one of them.
Now that that is out of the way, I must say that overall my expectations were met. Not exceeded, not undershot, but met. I didn’t have high expectations going into the film because I had nothing to compare the work of the director to, and I try to not get too hopeful that the trailers will actually come through in their projected epicness. The visuals were stunning. The actors were great. But for me, the film was just one of those classic cases of you-can’t-possibly-get-it-all-into-a-film-adaptation adaptation.
I missed the rich relationship development between the kids like Bean and Bernard and Ender and everyone. I missed the lack of transparency concerning how the Colonel was playing Ender the whole time – in the book it was much less obvious. I missed the siblings. I understood why they nixed the Earth storyline with Valentine and Peter’s political scheming, but they could have at least built up those relationships a bit more. I felt the whole film was lacking in the emotional and thematic complexity of the book – and this is not the medium’s fault. Film can capture emotional and thematic complexity superbly, and working with a text like Ender’s Game is a gold mine. But to me the film was very plot-surface-level.
I must stop and applaud the performance of Asa Butterfield as Ender, though. I mean, damn, he was perfection. Absolutely.
All of this being said, I would like to watch the movie again and most likely will several times once it comes out on DVD. But more strongly, it made me want to go back and reread the book. It almost seemed as though it were a good commercial for reading the novel. Like, “Look! This is how epic this storyline is, so now go read the book and see just how complex and epic it really is!” Honestly, if they would have carried on this split-up-books-into-multiple-films trend, it would have probably been better (but of course filmmakers only do that if they know they have a guaranteed faithful Ringer-like audience who will watch every Middle Earth universe film that will ever come out, even if they decide to make a 36-part Silmarillion. I digress.)
All in all, not bad, not a disappointment, not an “Eragon.” Just your classic inability to adequately translate book to film, but still make a decent movie.