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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Ender's Game (2013), directed by Gavin Hood

Ender's Game -

Orson Scott Card once said this book was unfilmable. He thought all the action took place inside Ender's head. But I don't know -- fire, good; bully, bad -- I think this is renderable on film.

Gavin Hood, who both directed and wrote this film, recognized this much at least, and something more besides: that the book is really just a single scenario endlessly repeated. But his intelligence (or courage) failed him at that point, for he didn't realize that all that repetition spread out over hundreds of pages made Ender's journey to becoming Master of the Universe appear to be (on the surface, anyway) a long one. Opting to eliminate the redundancy, he also managed to make Ender's rise unbelievably meteoric. (One scene, demonstrating Ender's faster-than-light intuition, has him picking out a pivot point in an alien formation from a static image.)

This is a book that cried out for "loosely based" treatment. Card didn't provide sufficient variety for a good movie; it needed new scenes and a stronger theme. As it is, everything happens so quickly that it becomes more about looking at the pretty colors than following any kind of rational storyline.

The story, only slightly condensed, is the same. Incredibly brilliant kid Ender Wiggin must master the elements of warfare in order to command humanity's last-ditch war with an alien race. High-tech simulations, or "games," provide the necessary crucible. It all leads to a final, graduating test.

Hood faithfully reproduces the central flaw of the book, Ender's facile success. He's just as unbeatable here, although he seems to take a few more lumps along the way simply because everything is so compressed. That's actually a good thing, it just isn't nearly enough.

Harrison Ford, as the man who recruited Ender and monitors his progress, is also good, and Asa Butterfield is fine as Ender. In fact, the actors here are not the problem. Neither are the effects, which are very good, particularly a "mind game" in which Ender assumes the figure of a mouse encountering obstacles on his way to ultimate truth.

The problem, of course, is that none of that means much when we have no good reason to care about the characters. We're supposed to care that Ender feels like he's a good kid being forced to do terrible, violent things. Except that he's only being coerced, not forced, and those awful things he's doing are for the sake of humanity itself. So stop whining, you genetically entitled little brat.