Like the Hobbit, it was difficult to separate the movie experience from my loyalty to the book. After seeing the trailer of Ender’s Game, I was tentatively excited. It had potential. It looked pretty good. I thought I might like it. On the other hand, I wasn’t convinced it could live up to the book. And it didn’t…
Naturally, things had to be left out for a cohesive and understandable 2-hour movie ride. Things did seem to move too quickly at times, but don’t they always in movies these days? I missed the battle room at the end of each scene involving it. I felt almost nostalgic about the room when Ender finally left it behind in the book because he and his team spent so much of their time there. It was similar to the way I felt about Hogwarts in the seventh Harry Potter. How could I enjoy the final novel without the fun daily adventures of life at Hogwarts?
No such nostalgia in the movie, but aside from that the overall pathos of the story arrived on screen intact. We share Ender’s emotional pain as he faces each opponent, knowing his ability to destroy them utterly, and at the same time understanding them and loving them tragically. I’ve never read or seen another character quite like Ender. He is as much tortured by the violence he sees in himself from his brother Peter as he is befuddled by the compassion he has learned from his sister. And the movie executes his character flawlessly, which is rare.
That integrity is what immediately captured me (more than the visual effects, which were nothing to scoff at). And I suspect that those who have never read the book will still be able to see Ender clearly as Card created him on the pages. It wouldn’t have been possible without the impressive acting of Asa Butterfield and the heart-renching relationship he has to Harrison Ford’s character, Colonel Graff. Emotionally traumatic as Graff’s character is in the book, the movie directors plus Ford’s acting managed to unleash the same feelings on the movie-goers.
I wasn’t left disappointed by any of the characters despite the fact that little was seen of Peter (nobody likes him anyway). His story-line is admittedly a bit of detour for Card in the book, and I didn’t begrudge the movie-makers for removing the scenes of he and Valentine taking over the world through online political debates and good writing. That part felt like a slight stretch both times I read Ender’s Game.
Even Bean was amazing in the movie, and his insult to Bernard during class (I can’t remember if it’s in the book or not) instantly endeared him to the whole theater.
Perhaps my imagination is careless, but I always thought the simulation battle scenes toward the end were hard to picture in writing. The imaging in the movie blew my mind. I’m glad I didn’t see it in 3D, but the loss of brain-cells might have been worth it for the experience. Ender’s Game always felt perfect to me. I loved and cared for the characters, and so I loved the book. But I never thought it could look that good and still avoid sacrificing the quality of such a story’s redeeming themes.
Such a glowing review is subject to scrutiny after a second watch on a smaller screen, but it’s not the size of the screen that makes Ender’s Game amazing. It’s Ender’s heart that’s as attractive and as tragic in the movie as it is in the book. I’d still recommend the book over the movie any day, but don’t think for a second that the Ender’s Game movie isn’t a great and rare film that’s much more than a Hollywood thrill ride.