Sunday, November 03, 2013

Ender's Game

I went and saw the Ender's Game movie this weekend; some thoughts.

(1) The movie is much better than most big-budget science fiction movies made today. The special effects are especially well-chosen and sometimes truly impressive, which is getting harder to do -- visually, this is what Hollywood tries to achieve but usually fails at. There is no outright bad acting -- which in itself is impressive, particularly given the number of adolescent roles here (Asa Butterfield does an excellent Ender, and Abigail Breslin brings an extensive emotional range to Valentine) -- and pretty much every actor does quite a bit with what he or she is given. And it is surprisingly faithful to the book -- they fail to make proper use of the ansible and limitations on faster-than-light travel, but most of the changes are rather minor, and the handful of big changes mostly do help with the cinematic storytelling.

(2) The faithfulness to the book is, surprisingly, its primary problem, for two reasons. The first is that the story feels a bit rushed at times. There's too much here; you hardly get through one thing and you're off to another. The second is that the emotional punch of the book is largely missing. The reason the story as it stood was able to carry the whole book was that in the book you really do see the world through Ender's eyes; it's a very introspective story. You can't get on the screen, and so need something to compensate for it; because it mostly stays close to the book, we don't get anything that can do that.

(3) However, also because it stays close to the book, it avoids the usual problem with Hollywood adaptations, in which movies deviate from the book in extraordinarily stupid ways.

(4) They could also have done the scene after the final battle somewhat better; it's one of those things where you can to some degree see what they were trying to do, but it didn't quite work, in part because of the rush-along character of the movie.

(5) However, if you like SF movies, and particularly if you liked the book, this is one worth seeing; as I said, it's a much stronger movie than most science fiction movies made today. Had they improved the pacing and emotional tone a bit, this would have been truly stellar. As it is, it's just fairly good.


  1. mrmandias1:12 PM

    Thanks for the tip.

  2. Brendan Hodge2:39 PM

    Thanks, this was a helpful review. I read the review in the WSJ this weekend, but it mostly complained that much of the movie was about training, to which my thought was: "Tell me something I didn't know."

    Always frustrating when a review is primarily about the sort of movie that the reviewer would like to have seen rather than the movie actually watched.

  3. branemrys5:00 PM

    Yes, that's a pet peeve of mine; it's common in academic reviewing, as well.

    Someone who faults the movie for being all about training has not, I would imagine, read the book!


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