In Ender’s Game, the leaders of Earth must train child geniuses to become soldiers to fight an insect alien species. The story particularly focuses on the life of one such child named Ender (Asa Butterfield, Hugo).
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Unlike many movie adaptations, Ender’s Game actually adheres to much of the book, so those who have already read Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel will appreciate the movie adaptation as a thrilling reminiscence. Those who have not will probably only enjoy the movie as another cheap Hollywood thrill.
Speaking of cheap Hollywood thrills, Ender’s Game features many big-name actors like Harrison Ford (Blade Runner), Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island) and Viola Davis (Eat Pray Love), but it is the enormous cast of talented child actors, namely Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), that keeps the movie refreshing.
Unfortunately, the actors’ unchanging youthfulness and the lack of battle montages in the movie makes the story seem like it happens in a few days, when the story actually occurs over many months, if not years. The lack of progression not only diminishes Ender’s accomplishment of simultaneously defeating two different teams and graduating to Command School, but the chronological deficiency also ignores Ender’s intense psychological development as he continues to fight undefeated.
Though Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) wants to isolate Ender to make him a better cadet, Ender still becomes close friends with other cadets like Bean (Aramis Knight, The Dark Knight Rises) and Petra Arkanian (Hailee Steinfeld, Romeo and Juliet). However, the movie exploits Petra as the only female cadet by making her friendship with Ender more intimate. The movie unfortuantely diminishes Petra to a mere love interest. Bonzo and Ender even fight at one point over what they can and cannot do with Petra as if Petra has no say in it.
Though war plays a significant role in Ender’s Game, the story is largely about how Ender uses different aspects like compassion and ruthlessness to defeat each challenge he faces as he trains to conquer the aliens. In other words, Ender’s Game is a story about what humanity is and what it does.
Movie adaptions do not necessarily have to adhere to the book’s original intention, but the heavily thematic and metaphorical Ender’s Game was a poor choice to adapt into a movie, since the directors obviously concerned themselves more with portraying the events of the story rather than with what those events represent.
Despite how the movie diminishes many of the story’s profound themes, Ender’s insistence on how Earth should have used diplomacy instead of war nearly successfully underscores how war cannot beget life but only more death.