End of game
I saw Ender’s game on Friday night in the IMAX. I was very intrigued about the movie, have read the book a bunch of times. I thought the book was totally awesome, but couldn’t imagine they’d be able to do it justice in only 2 hours. That being said, I went in with a generally open mind, hoping for the best. My overall impression of the movie, spoiler free, is that it was nice to see some of the scenes and characters on screen. The visuals were excellent. If you are a fan of the book, and have any interest in my SPOILER laden rant, then feel free to read on. If you haven’t read the book, you’ll get the gist of the movie, but much of what’s really happening will go right over your head. The Lish, who never read the book, really liked it. Then again, I’ve told her the real story in depth before. So, let’s head down that proverbial rabbit hole….
SPOILER ALERT!!! There will be nothing but spoilers from here on out. Read at your own risk!!!
I’m gonna do these as bullet points, since it’ll make it easier for those who read the book.
- I’ll start with the most obvious thing: Ender’s age. In the movie, he’s around 11 years old or so from the get go. This is a huge difference from the book, in which he was 6 when chosen for battle school. This causes the impact of Ender’s genius to be ruined.
- The whole socio-economical thing about the population problem, the “allowance” of 2 children, and the stigma of being a “third” was totally glossed over.
- They show the video of Mazer Rackham’s final battle, and it’s on earth using fighter jets, not in space. Now, 50 years or so later, we’ve figured out space flight, interstellar travel, massive space stations, etc…riiiiiight
- They don’t really get the invasions right. In the movie, it was an earth invasion only, and in the book there was when they invaded earth (China), and the space battle that happened later.
- When he gets to battle school, he’s nowhere near as aggressive as he is in the movie, verbally. I’m pretty sure this was done to “shortcut”, since establishing the tone correctly would’ve taken way too much time. Sorry, getting ahead of myself.
- In the movie, when he gets to battle school and is with his launchies, Ender defies and mouths off to Graff and Dap. After they leave the room (keep in mind, they’ve only been in school a few days or so), Ender turns to the launchies and tells them to go to bed, and they all follow his orders. This kind of thing follows throughout battle school.
- Ender shines instantly in Bonzo’s army, winning the first game he attends, instead of waiting back for a few games.
- They also don’t go into him learning strategies with his launchies after hours. Never mentioned. Sorry. The only person he practices with is Petra, and that’s only a few times.
- When he leaves his launchies, Alai says “assammualaikum” to Ender. This is very important in the book, since revealing his religion is a big sign of love and trust. This implication is glossed over completely.
- He meets Bean on the shuttle to battle school, so they’re the same age, instead of when he gets Dragon army. The rope scene with bean is in there, sorta, but with absolutely no explanation.
- The game is different. In the movie, Bean is frozen, and goes back through his own gate and gets unfrozen so he can talk to Ender. Also, to get through the enemy gate, they just need to float through it. No need to have a handful of soldiers press their helmets to the sides to unlock the gate. They also mostly gloss over the way they changed the game to challenge Ender, breaking the rules, and Ender’s decision to break the rules as well in order to win. This was important in the book, because it really showed him how to think outside the box, and find a way to win at any cost. Only 3 or so battles are actually depicted in the movie, and the mention of Ender’s strategy of freezing your legs to use them as a shield is completely omitted.
- The competition and rankings aspect for the soldiers and armies is completely glossed over. You get a vague idea as to the battles being important, but nowhere near what it was.
- Ender’s isolation is mentioned and slightly portrayed, but NOTHING like the book. In the movie, he finds friends and such relatively easily, and he becomes friends with his army mates. He didn’t do that in the book quite so much, especially with Bean.
- The mind game was changed. It stayed close to the book, but what actually happens is different. This is completely unnecessary. This game has HUGE meaning in the book, and correct me if I’m wrong, but there were no “buggers” in the game.
- On the topic of the buggers, in the movie they’re always called the Formix. In the book, they’re always called the buggers.
- When he gets to Command School, the simulation is different. He actually never sees Mazer when they’re playing each other. Mazer is thought to be in another room with another simulator, playing against Ender in real time. Also, his friends aren’t physically there with him when he plays, he plays alone.
- Ender doesn’t find the bugger pupa on the forward bugger base, and he doesn’t notice the castle at first. He notices the giant’s body. This is from the mind game. The buggers recreate the giant’s body, and then the cliff and the castle, from a concrete-like material. He find this on another bugger world that he chose to spend time on after the final battle, during the cleanup operation.
- They don’t go into what the Ansible is, how it works, or how we sent ships to the bugger homeworld years before and they’ll be arriving soon. In the movie, Ender is the one who figures out that they communicate telepathically, and that they must have meant us no more harm since they hadn’t attacked in 50 years. In the book, this is realized when the pupa gives him the visions. Which leads me to….
- In the book, there is NOT a bugger left over guarding the queen pupa. The pupa is what gives Ender the visions or how they felt, and why they did what they did, since each queen is born with the knowledge of the queens before it. They also didn’t execute this part well, and the real feeling and emotional kick to the guts that this scene gave the reader in the book was more like a playful poke to the belly.
- Finally, ALL of the political intrigue from the book, with
There are tons of other differences, but these are the ones that caught my eye, as far as general content. There are two other things that killed the movie for me. The first of these is the pacing. The glossing over of stuff made the movie feel really rushed. No part of the movie really has time to sink in or illicit any sort of genuine emotion from the viewer. It’s pretty much full steam ahead. The other part of what they missed was the relationships between the characters. This, I believe, is the movie’s greatest failing. I could’ve dealt with the changes if they kept the characters and mood consistent, but they didn’t. This, I think, is a side effect of rushing through the movie. The characters were more or less stony, and I was left not feeling anything for them. I wasn’t rooting for people, I wasn’t saying “yeah, kick his ass, he’s a douche!”, and the heartstrings weren’t plucked by the love between any 2 characters. OK, it MAY have been there a little (according to the Lish), but I wasn’t really feeling it.
They did do some things right. The visuals were dead on, and the special effects were awesome. The way they depicted the buggers flying and the battles was great. The suits, guns, props, etc were all done well. I did like what they did visually with the simulator, it was a nice update to what the book described. They did include a lot of little stuff for fan service, which was enjoyable since they couldn’t possibly fit it all in the movie. They did include his love for Valentine, and it came off in a mostly meaningful way. What they missed there was that ALL of what Ender did, he did for her. He put himself through this hell to protect the life of his sister, the person he loved the most in the world. I do like that he as a character had enough depth to show that he truly hated violence, and was very empathetic. He never wanted to hurt anyone or anything, and showed this in the end by flipping out on Graf when he was told the battles were all real. When I said before that the characters were stony, I mean as compared to the book. Their true depth isn’t conveyed, but that’s not to say that no depth was. As I said, the Lish really liked the movie, and I think that for those who never read the book, it will be great fun. Hopefully, it’ll get people interested in reading the book so they can see just how good the story really is. If you haven’t read the book, give it a try. If you like it, READ THE BOOK!
Maybe it was just my irritation at them changing things so much. Who knows. Overall, I think I may try watching it again with a clearer mind to see if it could be redeemed. As for doing the book justice, I think it failed. What they should have done was made this a long miniseries, similar to what they did with Frank Herbert’s Dune. I thought that was a great movie (the newer one that was 5 hours), and it was definitely true to the book in most respects. If they did that here, it would’ve been much better. I just feel like this was Hollywood’s way of getting Sci-fi readers in the theaters again, like they’ve done many times before. What really made the book Ender’s Game great, wasn’t the storyline, it was how the story was told. Total Recall, Blade Runner, Johnny Mnemonic, and Stranger in a Strange Land were all movie adaptations that really missed the tone and point of their respective books/stories. Sure, they’re decent as a separate and apart story (I love the first 3 I mentioned), but they aren’t true to the books in a profound way, and tend to miss the subtleties that made the books truly great. If these moviemakers ever figure out how to keep that intact, they’ll be able to turn out some truly incredible films. Instead we get entertaining, but wholly forgettable films.