Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ender's Game, The Movie

You know that uncomfortable feeling that you get upon learning that your absolute favourite novel will be spun into a Hollywood film?  I am currently dealing with such a feeling in regard to my favourite sci-fi novel, Ender's Game, which will hit the big screens in the spring of 2013.  On the one hand, I am excited to experience this wonderful story through a new medium, but on the other, I fear that the movie will not live up to the book. 

It is strange for one to have such strong feelings for a story that one takes offense to a lacklustre portrayal of it.  After all, I am not Orson Scott Card, the author of the Ender's Game series of novels, of which Ender's Game was the original publication.  But, that is what is special about a novel: the reader has the freedom to make the story their own, and in so doing, develops a much more intimate relationship with it than can be established through film.

I first read Ender's Game (I have read it twice since) in 1999, as part of a college English class.  The 1985 novel may be summarized as follows: Star Wars meets Harry Potter without the hocus pocus.  The story examines two advanced species, mankind and formics (commonly referred to as "buggers"), for whom this neighbourhood of the universe is not big enough.  The story unfolds almost entirely on a military base in space, where young boys and girls are trained in space war.  Harry Potter fans will draw comparisons between this training facility, known as Battle School, and Hogwarts, but to be fair, J. K. Rowling's fictional world was created after Card's.

The story closely follows the development of one particular space trainee, Andrew Wiggin, nicknamed Ender.  As this world is far darker than that of Rowlings, Ender is a much tougher and darker Harry Potter.  Ender is a born leader; he is bright and is capable of making difficult decisions.  He is groomed by Colonel Graff, who, in the upcoming film, will be portrayed by Harrison Ford (whose acting career took flight through the Star Wars film franchise).

Other novels in the series - and there have been many - are excellent as well.  As is often the case with sci-fi series, the successive volumes tend to grow in ambition and complexity.  But, as was the case for the Matrix trilogy, the original is the simplest, most well-rounded, and in my mind, the best of the lot.

Even if the film adaptation of Ender's Game turns out to be exceptional, I do not think it will fare as well at the box office as some other novel to film manifestations recently have (Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games).  For all of these films, the gap in time between novel publication and movie production was fairly small.  The gap for Ender's Game will have been 28 years.  Perhaps more importantly, Ender's Game readers are likely sci-fi readers, whereas the aforementioned novels have drawn fiction readers of all kinds.

There is one final reason why Ender's Game may not reach the wide audience that these other film adaptations have: it is disturbing.  While all of the series mentioned above involve young people with major challenges, the depiction of the conflicts in Ender's Game is probably the most dark, and the young people are as young as six.

I remain cautiously optimistic that the story of Ender will be well-represented when it hits the theatres next year.  But, like any fan of a novel turned film will tell you, "Read the book first."

PS: I was shocked to learn that the author of the Ender's Game series, Orson Scott Card, has spoken out publicly against homosexuality.  The recurring theme in his most famed novel series involves the potential extermination of a species (xenocide) and he writes with what appears to be sincere empathy about targeted groups.  Card's real life views do not seem to correlate to the feelings of tolerance that I gather from reading his novels.  Furthermore, Card places much importance on religion (in real life), and yet shines such a negative light on the practice of it in his novels (see "Children of the Mind").  Never before have I seen an author who expresses values in his stories that are so juxtaposed to those that he holds personally.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I too think that Ender's game was a fantastic novel when I was growing up. Recommend it to anyone as a read, particularly young people. Hopefully they will read it as a result of the movie. The writer never topped it. Though I still would read his stuff.

Julie Plante said...

You got me here... I have to read this book! Thanks for the suggestion of summer reading...!