The Geek Life: Ender’s Game -

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The Geek Life: Ender’s Game

Too Big for a Movie?

By Robert T. Trate     February 19, 2014

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
© Lionsgate
The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is going on in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games, and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life debates Movie or a TV Series with Ender’s Game.
When I was a kid I became fascinated with Dune (1984). I caught it on cable and was blown away by the scale and scope of the story. I wanted to know more about this universe. My cousin had the book and I looked at the sheer size of it and knew I couldn’t tackle it. Then, I caught Dune again and it was the expanded version with the prologue. Here was a great explanation of the backstory and how the houses were connected.  Now, we could chat about the different cuts of Dune and why David Lynch took his name off the film, but hat isn’t really my topic today. 

In 2000, director John Harrison released the Dune mini-series. Here was a greater appreciation of Frank Herbert’s characters and story. Suddenly, the layers started to peel back on Lynch’s version and I now watch the film with slightly different perspective. In short, the mini-series allowed me more time to dive into the characters. I know I could have gotten that from a book, but I wasn’t the type of 9 year old to sit through that long of a novel. What it taught me was having the luxury of time allows one a greater appreciation of the work.  It’s a luxury that Gavin Hood did not have in Ender’s Game
Ender’s Game, on a whole, is not without its faults. It is part of the Hollywood mentality of establishing a franchise. Clearly, Orson Scott Card’s character and book series lend itself to that. What I found so incredibly distracting are the great leaps of time for the characters. Ender Wiggin(Asa Butterfield) makes huge strides in his training, which is evident as he is the “chosen one” for the story. The story allows us to see that he has friends and family who are constantly going in and out of his life. This weighs on Ender. When he is reunited with them, after a few montages of training, we are then allowed to know how much time has passed. Our biggest leap of faith is when Ender goes to wage war on the Formics and his old unit is completely trained to assist him. I can believe in alien creatures and a world that uses children as soldiers, but training leaps that are shorter than Rocky montages are where I draw the line. 

My question to you Maniacs is: does translating a book such as Ender’s Game deserve a single movie? Is one movie enough time? Perhaps the fault is with Gavin Hood who also had problems establishing a story in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). The more I sit back and watch films and make the comparisons to television, I really think that television is the proper medium to tell the stories we want to see. There are always exceptions. Look at The Avengers. However, there was no one film to establish everyone and then off to fight the bad guy. In fact, even the bad guy technically had his own character developing film. The Walking Dead is a great example of where TV works. One movie or even a trilogy to tell the story of Rick and Carl Grimes? No, thank you. 


What lingered with me about Ender’s Game, enough to write this column, is the ending. Ender discovers that he wasn’t running just another game simulation. In fact, he is responsible for the possible extinction of an entire race. He then feels bad about it, a path that he was clearly on throughout the film with the bullies. What I found so dumbfounding was that Ender’s whole life was about protecting his home, Earth, and preparing to battle the Formics. When he found out that he defeated them, he suddenly felt the weight of what he did. The film takes off on a journey of redemption for Ender and that maybe the Formics still have a chance to survive. All this felt incredibly tacked on and forced. It wasn’t a child’s regret that I minded, but the haphazard way the story unfolded. I cared nothing about Ender, his world, or that he tried to make amends. I think if the story would have been told over a weekly mini-series or even a series on HBO, then I would have given a damn about Ender. Instead I felt just like Ender, used. Only for me, it was for my time and money.


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Dazzler 2/19/2014 4:03:30 AM

I enjoyed it enough to buy it.   Too bad it will never get sequel. 

Iridan 2/19/2014 5:28:10 AM

I really like the movie. However, if you read the second book, you might not still want a sequel. The second book was fine, but I don't think it would be worth making a movie out of it.

I agree that television is a far better medium to tell stories, but I think the movie could have been far better with another 15-30 minutes added.

DarkXid 2/19/2014 5:41:19 AM

It's not impossible to translate, interpert or mangle a book into a decent adaption of the cinematic arts.

How's that for a douchy sentence?

Harry Potter movies 1 & 2, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Spider-Man, Twilight, and I'm sure people can name others.  I'm sure it has a lot to do with the screenwriter, the director and the actors.

I thought Twilight sucked very faithfuly to it's sucky source material, but it was a good adaption.

So it can be done.  










violator14 2/19/2014 8:28:10 AM

 Ender's game despite its faults was a very cool movie imo. 

momitchell7 2/19/2014 11:28:08 AM

 How about Game of Thrones? They take an entire season to cover one book, or just a part of one book. It would be great to have the time to explain the whole "book" with a series, but the problem of course is the budgeting of a TV series vs. a movie.


millean 2/19/2014 12:04:11 PM

I think it depends on the particular story in question.  Another good example would be the John Carter movie.  When you watch that film, it seems like the entire series of events covered there occur in a little less than a week, when in fact it should have been closer to several years.

John Carter and Ender's Game seem to suffer on film because of all of the "internal monologuing" (for lack of a better term) that occur in the book that is hard to translate on screen.  A TV series would be better suited for that kind of material.

I would love to see an HBO-esque series of a faithful adaptation of all of the James Bond books.  Wishful thinking...


monkeyfoot 2/19/2014 1:32:37 PM

Agree with millean. It depends on the story. Sometimes theatrical is enough and other times a more drawn out mini-series is best, especially if there is alot of back history as in your Dune example.

Ultimately, books or even graphic novels are just different mediums than moving pictures. They will give different experiences.

monkeyfoot 2/19/2014 1:38:13 PM

Just looked again at the Dune prologue video. It was very informative about the set-up for the rest of the movie.

But those are the most gawd-awful sci-fi paintings I have ever seen! They look like they were done by a high school student. A talented one but not at all with a professional feel. And they were done in a anachronstic style like illustrations from a 1940s science fiction book.

rogue188 2/19/2014 5:30:49 PM

There is a fine line between adapting material and bastardizing it. Ender's Game would have been better by having a younger version of Ender cast to show the passage of time properly and like mentioned above, add about 20 minutes to the movie. With a book like that, you can't just hit the highlights. There needs to be character development, including the totally skipped story of Valentine and Peter regarding Desmothenes. By including it, they would have added a bit more complication to the plot instead of just a straight sci-fi action film. The movie lacked humanity and was overly rushed.

almostunbiased 2/19/2014 7:51:45 PM

I agree, the second book was no where near as good as the first.  In fact it was very predictable and just not compelling.  No other movie need be made.  I stopped reading the series after the second book.

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