Sets, Effects Help Ender’s Game

Sarada Symonds, Editor-in-Chief

Orson Scott Card’s bestselling science fiction novel, Ender’s Game, made its debut on the big screen November 1. Despite visually stunning scenes and a talented cast, I found the film to be disappointing in comparison to the book; however, I still believe that the film will satisfy science fiction fans.

The film focuses on the protagonist, Ender Wiggins, who lives in a world that fears attack from an alien race called “Buggers.” Ender, a child prodigy, is accepted into battle school, where he trains with other children. Driven by the school’s leader, Colonel Graff, Ender must learn how to defeat their enemies and save Earth from annihilation.

The biggest obstacle faced when creating the film was translating the largely cerebral book to the big screen. In this regard, the film fails. While Ender does narrate parts of the film, giving greater insight into the actions on screen, we are not given the same in-depth look as we are in the book. While the book stretches out for over a decade, beginning when Ender is 6 years old, the film takes place over a couple months when Ender is in his teens.

One such instance of this is Ender’s relationship with his two older siblings, Peter and Valentine. In the movie, Ender states that he fears becoming Peter, who is “quick to violence.” In the book, we are given a much more detailed explanation of Ender’s history with Peter, the reason for Peter’s animosity towards Ender, and hints that Peter is a psychopath, which is far more alarming than someone who is simply “quick to violence.” Furthermore, Valentine, a main character in the novel, only has a few scenes that center around Ender, and their relationship is not fully described. This is most likely due to the fact that the film cut out one of the main subplots of the novel, which involve Peter and Valentine influencing Earth politics. Without understanding Ender’s history with his family, it may be difficult to understand some of the film.

Furthermore, the cast, which included Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, and Hailey Steinfeld, was not able to deliver the emotional performance necessary to truly carry the movie. This may have been due to the poor writing, which often seemed awkward and stilted. There are few moments in the movie where you are drawn in, making it difficult to connect with the characters. The battle scenes, which mostly take place in anti-gravity, are too slow to capture the attention of those who like action films.

That being said, the film was filled with incredible visual effects, particularly the space battle scenes. The sets are brilliant, portraying an exciting science fiction setting that does live up to expectations. The sets seem to be the perfect blend of futuristic technology and military base, creating a world that truly belongs in science fiction. The attention to detail, such as building a curved floor to simulate Earth’s gravity, was one of the better features of the film.

Some of the major themes of the novel were not successfully translated to the film. While it did force us to question the loss of innocence in a time of war, many other themes were lost in the fast-paced action of the film. In the book, Ender enters the school when he is 6 years old, starkly contrasting the battle scenes that take place in the novel with the innocence of youth. In the novel, when Ender is attacked by Bonzo and Stilson, he fights back in self defense. They later die from their injuries, although Graff lies to Ender by telling him they survived. This is blatantly omitted in the movie, therefore taking away from the message as well as undermining Ender’s character development. The last scenes, which emphasize the emotional, mental, and physical destruction of war, seem too rushed to really sink in, and are too ambiguous.

To those who read the book: do not have high expectations for the film. While it is an admirable attempt at a science fiction film, it does not have the same depth as the novel. However, if you are a fan of awesome visual effects and futuristic sets, Ender’s Game is the film for you.