Recently the powers that be, better known as studio executives, saw fit to make a movie rendition of my all time favorite book, “Ender’s Game”. The movie was announced years before it came to theaters, so there was a great deal of time to build up an unquenchable excitement. By the time the movie was released, I don’t think it would have been possible for it to meet the lofty expectations I had set upon it. This was the first time in my life that I had to endure a Hollywood adaptation of something so near and dear to my heart. I had only heard stories of people’s inevitable and bitter disappointments at the cinematic attempt to tell one of their favorite stories.
When the cast was announced, I allowed the cynic inside myself to be quiet. The all-star lineup of young actors surely could do justice to Orson Scott Card’s army of child heroes. All that was left to do was film a faithful re-telling of one of the most beloved science fiction stories ever written. What was delivered was an unrelenting, unwavering, unbelievable, unwatchable, steaming pile of shit.
In the spirit of truthfulness, I feel I have to admit that I likely would not have been satisfied with anything short of a scene by scene recreation of the original story. I’ve owned three copies of “Ender’s Game”. I’ve read it a dozen times. I’ve read the sequels. I’ve read the “Shadow” series, stories told from the point of view of Ender’s confidents during a simultaneous timeline but following (beyond the first installment) a divergent storyline. I feel a connection to the story and the universe that makes it very hard to be an objective observer. For instance, I took my dad to see the movie on opening night, I wanted to share with him something that is so important to me, and he loved the movie. As a person going to watch a science fiction movie, he thought it was entertaining.
I cannot, however, get past the bastardization of the story. Not only were key plot elements missed entirely, but many of those that were included were grossly miscommunicated by the director. From the first moment that Ender is shuttled away from Earth there is a plan set in motion to completely isolate him from his peers as well as his teachers. The movie references this in conversations but the psychological hell that Ender is put through is completely fumbled in the movie. In one breath you hear his commander say that Ender has to believe no one will ever come to his rescue, and in the next scene you have concerned teachers running after him sobbing their apologies that they weren’t able to help him in one trial or another. The movie gave him friends and even a romantic interest. By the time Ender graduates from battle school he has the respect of his peers, but he has no friends, no faith in humanity, and he certainly has no romantic interest.
The story of Ender’s siblings, Peter and Valentine, was also completely omitted from the movie. In the book, Peter and Valentine, at ages 12 and 10, begin an anonymous campaign to seize power over their government. Using the “nets”, Card’s prophetic vision of the internet, the two children play a cat and mouse game with the governments of the world. At the conclusion of the International Fleets invasion of the Formics worlds, with war beginning to be waged on Earth, Peter drafts a peace agreement which is voted into law and elevates him to the head of the Hegemony. The power struggle on Earth and the war that breaks out immediately following Ender’s conquest is completely left out of the movie.
In my opinion the book should have been made into two movies. The story could have been divided between Battle School and Command School. That way the story could have been more accurately re-told. By omitting the story line with Ender’s siblings, the movie was forced to completely re-imagine the ending of the book.