Movie Discussion: Ender's Game
Warning! This entire discussion contains spoilers for Ender's Game.
Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, an insectoid alien race who had previously tried to invade Earth and had inflicted heavy losses on humankind.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Director: Gavin Hood
Writer: Gavin Hood (screenplay by), Orson Scott Card (based on the book Ender's Game by)
Actors: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin
Release Year: 2013
Evie Totty | November 6, 2013
I actually haven't seen it yet :( I overslept Saturday. I want to see it in IMAX 3D. Hopefully that will happen soon.
Scott Hardie | November 7, 2013
I liked this movie a lot, as I wrote elsewhere. I probably wouldn't have seen it on my own (maybe someday on Netflix), so I'm grateful to Kelly for getting me there.
This is a little detail but one that I want to single out for praise: Thank you Hollywood and/or Orson Scott Card for not including a romantic subplot between Ender and Petra, even though it would have been easy to drift that way. For once, a boy and a girl got to be friends and partners without the romantic tension that Hollywood usually insists on adding. They have more important things to do like saving the planet, and the movie is overstuffed as it is, so what an appropriate and refreshing choice to make.
There are all kinds of conversation-starters about the film, from its moral implications to its political stance to its gender reductivism. For me, the meatiest subtext was the notion that Ender was inherently special. The movie hit upon it again and again for two hours, in ways both obvious and subtle: At one point as they're driving to the pier, Harrison Ford argues that Earth must be saved from alien attack at all costs, and Abigail Breslin argues that her brother's conscience and sanity are worth preserving instead -- yeah, you heard that right; Ender is more important than the human race. As Kelly likes to say, this novel appeals to a certain kind of arrogant boy coming of age in the last few decades, who was taught that he was special and could conquer the world through his specialness and that the world revolved around him. That mindset is proving to be very damaging now that Gen Y is grown up and facing harsh reality, because the notion that any one person is world-changingly special is a fantasy that can't come true. In a sense, Ender's Game is a princess movie for boys: You get to be the chosen one who ascends to the throne, not because of hard work or sacrifice or compromise, but because you're inherently destined for it.
This notion of fixed intelligence as a mindset has been on my mind lately. (I've been meaning to read Mindset by Carol Dweck.) I was one of those boys who was praised for his intelligence and who scored well on standardized tests, and it had two deleterious primary effects. In the short term, it made me an unbearable little egomaniac who drove away my friends until I learned to cancel it out with generous doses of self-effacement. In the long term, it has made me very sheltered and cautious and lazy. When you internalize the idea that you have great potential and are inherently special just by being yourself, you stop taking risks on really challenging projects because you might overreach and fail and make a fool of yourself. You tend to stick with only the tasks that you have already mastered, even if they produce limited returns. Unwillingness to try new things is a key element of bad luck, not to mention a reliable way to make life boring. Belief that you're special is a prison, and Ender's Game feeds that dangerous belief all too well. (Don't want your kids to face this problem? Psychologists say to praise them for hard work or cooperation or other actions that they take, rather than intelligence or other internal traits that they were born with.)
Anyway, I imagine that few other people are likely to get out of the film what I got out of it, so I wonder, what stuck with you about the film? I imagine that its fascistic overtones will rub some people the wrong way -- even if, like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, the narrative ultimately rejects the warmongers like Harrison Ford and shows them to be wrong, they're so compelling and charismatic that we wind up admiring them and missing the film's lesson. I'm a fan of the hugely underappreciated film Starship Troopers that recognized the ridiculously fascist elements in its source novel and adopted a satirical, hyper-realistic tone as a challenge back to Robert A. Heinlein. Even with Card's direct participation, the film of Ender's Game either doesn't know or doesn't care that its tone is so rah-rah militaristic and its pacifist ending so rushed and perfunctory. Was this how you saw it, or am I off base?
Evie Totty | November 11, 2013
I also love Starship Troopers (one of the reasons my Song 2 is in my original karaoke rotation) and watch it every time I come across it.
I know that when I was a kid it was clear that I also was one of the smartest kids in the class (I got to go to the library and read 'real' books while my classmates were still learning to read when I was in first grade) but I didn't push people away with my arrogance. Instead I was bullied. I do know that it was weird getting to college and finding people smarter than me and I have also have had to make a grand effort to stop being a know-it-all (think Hermione).
I got the feeling that if you hadn't already read the book - you were kind of lost a bit. They didn't explain that only 2 children were allowed per family. They didn't explain why Valentine wasn't accepted. They didn't tell you he actually killed the first boy too.
They didn't even do the cool manipulation of Earth's public opinion and the rise of Peter and Valentine through the political arena. Because in my opinion - or maybe it was spelled out in the book - Peter and Valentine were the 2nd and 3rd smartest people on the planet behind Ender and that is nothing to sneeze at. I loved that part of the book. Reminds me of Wizard's First Rule - people are stupid. Which I find to be true over and over again.
Regardless - the pacifist ending I felt was lost in the film. Him finding the last Formic with the Queen egg seemed to just be an afterthought. It didn't make sense with the rest of the movie, even though the showed it in the Mind Game.
And with an only $28M opening in the US... it doesn't look like we will see the rest of the series either. Such a shame too. the film was beautiful.
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Scott Hardie | November 2, 2013
Evie, I know you plan to see this, if you haven't already on opening day. Kelly is a big fan and will probably get me to it soon. Is anybody else planning to see it?
Orson Scott Card's strong and unpopular opinions about gay marriage (which he says have been misquoted) have created a lot of controversy ahead of this film, with boycotts organized. Do an author's opinions influence (for worse or for better) your enjoyment of a work? What if the opinions exist solely in the author's unrelated interviews and don't influence the work itself, as Kelly tells me is the case with the Ender books?