By Caitlin Calsbeek in A&E
Imagine a future world in which humanity faces extinction at the hands of a bug-like alien race. Ultimately, the fate of human life rests in the hands of one young strategist. Sound familiar? No this isn’t another Starship Troopers spin-off, this is “Ender’s Game” Hollywood style.
The movie, based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, makes every attempt to translate as little as possible from the book in order to squeeze in enough bad special effects and PG-13 violence to satisfy both parent and child. In the meantime, the most important messages portrayed in the novel are lost to satisfy a larger audience.
Having only survived due to the courage posed by their most venerable commander, Mazer Rackham, portrayed by Ben Kingsley, the military force protecting Earth embarked on a quest to find their next great hero. Enter Ender Wiggin, a young, brilliant tactician and potential savior of humanity.
As a third child in a time when strict population control only allows couples to have two, Ender faced constant ridicule and isolation living life as a “third.”
The novel gives us our first glimpse of how deep Ender’s isolation is through a violent outburst of self-defense when Ender is attacked by a peer. However, in order to appeal to a younger audience, the movie fails to capture the brutality of this confrontation and connect the audience to Ender.
While attending Battle School, a fictional military academy which trains the world’s most promising young soldiers, Col. Graff (Harrison Ford), the officer in charge of the school, told Ender that he is the one who will be responsible for saving the world in an attempt to make him self-reliant.
This is confirmed when Ender brawled with a fellow student, another aspect of the plot severely dulled down. In the novel, Ender aggressively kicks his opponent in the groin to death. In the film, it’s unclear if the other student died or was severely injured. This might seem minor but it further detracts from understanding the protagonist.
Time constraints rob the film of essential relationships like those with Ender’s siblings, Valentine and Peter, which added invaluable insight to Ender’s struggles. In the novels, Peter is a complex character. Apart from being a savage oppressor, he and Valentine are super-geniuses who quickly amass political power while Ender is away.
Also, very little development was given to the connection Ender evolves with his complex computer game dulling his resultant relationship with the alien using the game as a catalyst to communicate with humans. Possibly the most important message behind the novel is taking an objective look at your own ethnocentricity. This is drowned by the attempt to relate to Ender’s age group.
When Ender is eventually tricked into destroying an entire alien race, the impact of what this means on both a large scale and personally to Ender is diluted because there’s so little development in the movie.
While the novel is filled with challenging and dynamic symbolism, “Ender’s Game” is another brilliant sci-fi gem victimized by the dulling powers of Hollywood.