Like many of you that will be heading out to theaters this weekend to recapture the nostalgia of your teenage years reading Ender’s Game in your english classes, I will also be making a second trip to re watch this sci-fi epic. It is that good. Like any adaptation from novel to the big screen, there are changes and omissions. And for any “launchie” out there (launchie is my version of a Twi-Hard), these changes/omissions might upset you. Before I go deeper into the movie, let me lay out all of these that the movie diverts from the novel. If I am missing anything, feel free to comment below and let me know.
1. The biggest and most glaring omission is Peter and Valentine and their relationship with Ender. Peter and Valentine are Ender’s older siblings. Peter is portrayed as a heartless human being and Valentine who is full of love and compassion. Ender being the balance of the two. In the novel, while Ender is in space training for the upcoming war, Peter and Valentine start affecting political affairs back on earth as their alter egos “Locke” and “Demosthenes”. The movie omits these important chapters and the characters themselves have barely any screen time or interaction with Ender.
2. Stilson and Bonzo are bullies that Ender kills in the novel through self-defense. He does not know he kills them til later in the novel. These bullies are never mentioned that they died and the scenes in the movie depicting him defending himself from these bullies were toned down from how the novel describes the fights.
3. The Battle Room, the most important element of Battle School in the novel in which we see Ender develop into the brilliant leader and strategist, is rushed in the movie. The battles that were shown were amazing but rather than the years of training that Ender spends in Battle School, it feels like only a few months passed before he is sent to Command School for the final battles.
4. The ages of the characters are older than they are in the novel.
5. Major Anderson is Colonel Graff’s second in command. In the novel, the Major is a male. In the movie, the Major is played by actress Viola Davis.
6. Ender has 11 commanders in his final battles with the buggers in the novel. In the movie he has only 6. One of his bullies in the novel, Bernard, is rewritten as one of Ender’s bullies who eventually becomes one of his commanders in the movie.
7. In the movie, the ending shows Ender flying off alone with the last remaining queen pupa of the buggers to save her race. In the novel, he leaves with Valentine to colonize the planets left vacant by the buggers and finds the queen pupa.
8. Peter has taken control of the world.
These are the biggest changes/omissions that I can recall from the movie. Some of them I can understand due to time constraints. Others, will need a deeper analysis of.
Peter and Valentine are essential to the political situation on Earth. Though some of the best chapters in the novel were about Locke and Demosthenes, they did not affect Ender’s story in space and are understandably written off. Valentine’s relationship with Ender is very close and only with her email and visit during his vacation was he able to continue with his training. Fortunately, this relationship was not completely written off in the movie. We needed to see that, unlike his older brother Peter, Ender was still a good person and can break down. Only with love and compassion (from Valentine) can Ender continue to do what he was meant to do.
The ages of the characters are depicted as being older in the movie. I can understand this as a younger actor might not have the acting experience to deliver a believable performance that would be required of a character such as Ender who has to experience so much hardship. The characters also did not age as much in the movie as they did in the novels. This is also understandable due to time constraints.
My biggest criticism is the Battle Room sequences and how rushed they felt. The most important training Ender receives and his growth and development as a leader is from his time spent at Battle School. I would have loved to have seen more battles and the strategies that Ender comes up with to conquer the battle room. But alas, you can’t always have what you want. I did really enjoyed what they put on the screen and the sheer thrill and goosebumps I had when he starts learning and understanding the battle room was completely worth it.
The ending was changed and it will be interesting to see how that will affect a potential sequel. Originally, Peter has taken over the world and with the urging of Valentine, Ender leaves with her to colonize a new world left vacant by the buggers. There he finds a queen pupa and is able to communicate with her. Because of his guilt for committing xenocide, and finally understanding that the war was a complete misunderstanding, he puts it upon himself to find a new world for the queen and save the bugger race. The movie takes a different route. After winning the war, Ender finds the queen pupa on the planet that the command school is stationed on. From there, he sets off into space to find a new world for the queen without Valentine. If Ender did return to Earth to leave with Valentine, the movie would probably have to show Peter as the leader of the world and why Ender can’t stay on Earth. That would detract from the ultimate meaning of the ending, that Ender’s ruthlessness is what saved the human race but his compassion is what will ultimately save the buggers from extinction.
So how does the movie adaptation stack up to the novel? Though lacking some key elements to the development of the characters, the movie keeps the simplistic writing style that made Ender’s Game such a popular novel for all ages. The same themes and motifs of love, compassion, and humanity that resonated with you as a teen still rings true for you as an adult. And the movie does a great job of showing these themes though with more subtlety but just enough for you to remember why this story is beyond sci-fi and touches on the human condition. That it represents the best a person can do, given their circumstances.
Rating: 9 out of 11
About Ender’s Game:
Synopsis: The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth.
Directors: Gavin Hood
Writers: Gavin Hood, Orson Scott Card
Stars: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
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