Film adaptions of popular literatures can be a dreamy joy for all those book fans and a wonderful invitation for people to join the book club, however, the final products can also be something indescribably bad. For example, Eragon, a fantasy novel for young adults written by Christopher Paolini which once topped the best seller list, was disastrous on the screen; the story was terribly transcribed to the screenplay, and the screenplay was terribly translated to motion pictures. Although, Ender’s Game the movie is way better thanEragon or movies like the Mortal Instrument and the Host which premiered early this year, it certainly is not in the billionaire boy club with Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. Let’s take a look at what Gavin Hood did right meanwhile how he failed to deliver many crucial materials from the original novel.
Despite Orson Scott Card’s stupid anti-gay ideology of being a Morman, he was, hopefully still is, a great speaker of human’s inner struggles, and an advocate of the balance of the universe. Card successfully displayed a story that not only inspired the science fiction industry, but also helped generations of people to be sure of who they were. Comparing to other books in this series (especially Speaker for the Dead), Ender’s Game, as the first installment, is innocent but filled with complex human emotions. The book is filled with suspense and drama, such as the mysterious mind game and the conversations between Col. Graff and Major Anderson. The book also delivers loads of details to describe how Ender, as a young kid, is calmer and more superior than kids around his age but he is so vulnerable and in need of protections from adults at the same time. The relationship between Ender and his sister, Valentine, is beautiful and naive; on the contrary, the relationship between Ender and his brother, Peter, is much more complicated. Even though, Ender befriended with Petra, Bean and Alai, he was forced to act more mature and be a singular powerful weapon without help from others, which resulted in that Ender actually had “no” friends at all in Battle School, and this little fact about Ender’s social life gets reinforced in Ender in Exile. In Ender’s Shadow, Bean can be seen as Ender’s best friend and the most loyal admirer, however, from Ender’s perspective, he is burdened with saving the world.
The signature of the novel is all those games in the battleroom, not too much in the film even through Hood’s translation of the battleroom to screen was nicely done, however, Ender’s promotion to the Command School along with the later genocide of the buggers elaborate this science fiction tale to a much more philosophical lesson to young adults: is it worth to terminate an entire alien species, while humans are eager to approve that we are not alone? Is it ethical to sentence the enemy to death without even trying to communicate beforehand? Is it logical to love our enemies? The general bone structure of the novel has been delivered by Hood, however, Hood sacrificed chunks of meat so that he could fit the 6-year-time-spin into the one-year-development in the film.
The visual effects of the movie are impressive, especially, the simulated battles and, of course, the battleroom, however, Hood spent too little effort on storytelling. Peter (Jimmy Pinchack) is half souled in the film. If you have read the original novel, you might be able to recall that Peter has comforted and apologized to Ender during the night when Ender’s monitor got removed. Peter is as smart as Ender, and he is the cruel one, but he is not entirely cold blooded. Abigail Breslin is really pretty, but her version of Valentine is simply not sentimental enough. In the novel, she is probably the only person other than Ender who has chapters on what is going with her life, but in the film, Col. Graff somehow became the center of the story. I guess Harrison Ford is a very shiny big name. Hood was smart to blend in some hints fromEnder’s Shadow and Ender in Exile to make the story more appealing to people who have never read the books, however, there were way too many hints, such as human fleets will arrive at the buggers’ home plant in 28 days or some, and I doubt audiences would pay extra attention to what was going on with those beautiful graphics. Details are good, but too many of them is simply a sacrifice of suspense since the audiences cannot follow along.
How Bean and Ender met in the space shuttle was an understandable adjustment from the original novel, however, the brief introduction between the two really weakened their friendship. Even though, Ender’s Game is extremely focused on Ender, Bean has his importance of progressing the story. Hood manifested the relationship between Ender and Petra into a coming of age romance, which made the film more like the Hollywood formula, even though they have not really kissed each other. In the original book, Ender could not be older than 12 years old when he blew up the buggers’ planet, so there was not really a place for romantic relationships; in the film, Ender and his friends are in their teen years, and it is understandable to sparkle some fireworks, however, I did not enjoy much. Speaking of another very important “friend” of Ender’s, Alai, Suraj Partha’s performance was terrible. Alai is the gentle one, and he is the first friend Ender made in Battle School. If Hood decided to cut off all those bromance and cheesy dialogues, then he should cut them all out. When Ender got promoted to Salamander, Alai chased him out and said “salaam, peach with you.” What a great opportunity for some more drama by not explaining the meaning of “salaam” wasted! The relationships between Ender and his friends are all bubbly and wonderful in the film, however, in the book, and in reality, friends turn back to each other, drama!
Hood’s decision on leaving out all those political plays by Petter and Valentine on earth did not bother me much, but, again, both Peter and Valentine were half souled in the film. Ender’s parents in the film actually performed really well, and I do not know if it is due to pure luck. John and Theresa ( Ender’s parents) did not matter much to Ender’s Game, but they are crucial to make the story whole, and they became much more important in Ender in Exile and Ender’s Shadow. The brief showcase of John and Theresa in the film left the impression of not-so-smart-lucky parents, perfect!
Is Hood loyal enough to the book? Probably not really, since the philosophical depth of Ender’s Game cannot really be delivered through Asa shouting at Harrison or Abigail smiling and comforting Asa. However, again, the bone structure is there, the battleroom, the simulations, Mazer Rackham, and the flying bugger queen. Oh, yeah, and the mind game, which has been nicely interpreted and translated.
With more hype and luck, Ender’s Game might be received as well as the Hunger Game, however, as LA Times has commented, Ender’s Game is one of the most expensive independent movies ever made. Without major production companies backing up, fingers crossed.