Ender’s Game: Good visuals and acting, strays from novel’s strengths

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By: Michael Houck, staff writer, [email protected]

To say the least, I am a huge fan of the universe Orson Scott Card has created over the past two decades. From the high action Battle School fights in “Ender’s Game” to the more ethical and complex story in the “Children of the Mind,” I have always been interested with how Card crafted this universe.

When I heard rumors “Ender’s Game” was being made into a movie, I was a little concerned how it would turn out. Like every fan that has their favorite book turned into a movie, I was worried about how much would be cut, what would be added, and how the overall movie would turn out.

If you do not know anything about “Ender’s Game,” it takes place in the future where mankind has survived an alien invasion from an ant-like race called the Formics or “Buggers.” Thanks to the brilliant mind of Mazer Rackham, the Formics were defeated. Now, years later, Earth is again threatened by another Formic invasion and the human race needs to find another “Mazer” to save them again.

In comes the idea of Battle School, where Earth’s youngest, smartest minds have been chosen to learn about strategy and war above the Earth’s atmosphere. One of these great minds is Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield).

Ender goes through all the challenges of not just Battle School, but also the morals of facing the Formics, the inner struggle of balancing the personalities of his over-aggressive brother, Peter (Jimmy Pinchak), and his over-sensitive sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin), and learning that fights often have no rules.

I had to watch this movie using two viewpoints: first, as a moviegoer who has never read this book, and second, as a die-hard fan who has read the book many times.

The visual effects were all out-of-this-world. From the fights in the battle room in Battle School to the fantasy game Ender plays, they do everything as I imagined it. The production value was displayed at its finest, from huge sound effects of the guns and ships to the music that fits the mood perfectly.

All the actors played the roles they were given excellently. Butterfield played a wonderful Ender, portraying him as a “smart-ass” with authority while also showing he cared about all the people and creatures he hurt. He plays the great range of emotion that any 12-year-old would display if they were put in Ender’s situation.

There were some parts where the acting was a little forced. In a spar session between Ender and his fellow Battle School classmate/“love interest” Petra (Hailee Steinfeld), the forced grunting and fighting sounds with some smiles; seemed awkward.

There were still great scenes Butterfield performed perfectly. Ender and his overseer Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) argue about the ethics of a just-completed fight.  You can feel the emotion of Butterfield and Ford as they a heatedly try to prove their points with powerful words, tone of voice, and body language.

As a huge fan of the book and the universe, some parts made me cringe. One is when Ender meets his shadow and fellow classmate, Bean (Aramis Knight), in their launch to Battle School. In the book he doesn’t meet Bean until more than halfway through the novel, and that changes a lot of the dynamic of the story.

All the hard politics in the book are eliminated as well as the side story about Locke and Demosthenes. This drastically changes the original story.

Card fans need to be warned: The ending, which I won’t spoil, goes a different direction than the book, so be prepared. As a fan, there are some good things. One part I enjoyed was the “Giants Drink” game Ender plays, which I thought would not end up in the movie at all.

If you have not read the book, go see the movie. If you don’t, you are missing one of the best non-sequel movies of the year. If you are a die-hard fan, go ahead and see it. You might be cringing during some parts, especially the ending, but you will be lost in how good the movie is. As a movie: 4 out of 5 stars. As a book adaptation: 3 out of 5 stars.