Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book vs. Movie- Ender's Game

Up front, I'll give my ruling:
Both have good points, but I'm not terribly enthusiastic about either one.


We'd [meaning my mom & I] been introduced to a bunch of YA books by my aunt/her sisters.
This is how we got into the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. Based on the trailer for the upcoming movie and the book jackets of the book, I didn't have a lot of interest in checking them out. But we got suckered in and eventually saw the movie... I still have my misgivings about it and thankfully, we're getting a second chance thanks to the upcoming Family Channel TV series. But I will miss Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace for sure.
I'd also say we got introduced to the Hunger Games and Divergent by them also, but to be fair, the movie trailers sold me on the Hunger Games and the book jacket had me considered "Divergent" for a couple years before the movie came out. It was just a matter of getting that extra push.

"Ender's Game" looked like the Mortal Instruments situation all over again. The aunt that had gone to several movies with us (including Marvel, Star Trek and dozens of book-to-movie adaptations) was uber excited about the Orson Scott Card series (and is still avidly reading him). Even though I shrugged my shoulders at the movie trailers, she thought I'd like the series, so I gave it a shot.

At this given moment, I'm not sure if I want to proceed to another book after this first one.

The Book

Granted, I am a Star Wars fan and I've enjoyed the recent Star Trek movies, but beyond them, I don't know if the sci-fi future in space genre is my cup of tea.

I found the book intriguing and fascinating for the first hundred pages or so. But after a while, I wouldn't say that it got repetitive (although it does), but I just found it harder to stay invested. Particularly after Ender graduates over to Command School.

The story goes that years ago, humans survived the onslaught of an alien race. But in order to win the next war that will end all future wars, a new commander is needed. All of the people being trained for this mission are kids. If the selection committee thinks they are worthy, they are sent to Battle School in a space station.
Ender grew up being bullied simply because he is the Third child in his family and there's a two child limit per household... I believe this is to control the population so it doesn't deplete limited resources. But his family was requested to have him because he could possibly bring together the best qualities of his siblings, Peter and Valentine. One being too violent and the other being too compassionate.
So Ender not only learns to stand up to his bullies, but he learns to command respect from his fellow cadets. But as skilled a killer he becomes, he becomes increasingly displeased with himself- afraid he'll be no better than his psychotic brother.

As Ender navigates Battle School, I stood behind him and was ready to see what he would do. Like any good protagonist, I celebrated his victories. Perhaps one of the problems was that he barely had any defeats-- if you never see your hero fail, it's hard to stay invested and harder to care about the outcome because it might become too predictable.

The book takes a dip in typical 3rd act fashion: the story stops when Ender becomes disenchanted with his duty and his mission. And within one chapter, he's back in... a little too quick, honestly. But until his former comrades rejoin him for the final mission, his head isn't in it and neither was mine.

The twist at the end of the Command School story arc threw me off a bit, but once the shock wore off and more exposition came along, I was left intrigued just enough to consider another book... but not for a while.

As great as Ender's character arc is where he develops relationships with people, I didn't find it (or the corresponding writing) nearly as enticing as some other books I've read.
Either because the lead is a male protagonist (and I've read so many female narrators lately) or because there's no love story involved or the writing style just has too many working parts going on.


The movie was as good an adaptation as it could have been. A lot of the plot was streamlined to fit it within the time period. There's a story arc where Peter and Valentine assume fake names and write political articles online- that was taken out for obvious reasons, it had nothing to do with Ender's story. Bits and pieces were changed and moved around so Ender isn't the only cadet we see a lot of.

I liked the casting of Harrison Ford as Graff. He gave the movie a little more weight... meaning it might not have had much without him. Viola Davis as well. Anderson was written as a man, but for whatever reason, I always read him as a woman. Maybe because I vaguely remember seeing a woman in the trailers. And for whatever reason, I kept thinking there'd be a Glenn Close cameo when in fact I was confusing this with Guardians of the Galaxy.

Yeah, oddly enough, Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in space, but I enjoyed it. Maybe it's the Marvel movie magic. Maybe it's the great cast. Or there were a lot of colorful personalities.
I guess that's me saying that there aren't many strong personalities in "Ender's Game" whether it's the movie or the book.

Asa Butterfield as Ender- nobody could have done it better than him. I genuinely do find him a likeable actor, even though I'd only seen him once or twice before.
The first time I saw him in the "Hugo" trailers (why hasn't that aired on TV yet? I still haven't seen it and really want to!), I saw dark hair and pale blue eyes... just like a character I wrote ages ago. I thought to myself that he could have played him in the movie adaptation. But sadly, that story hasn't gotten any close to being published and his eyes aren't even pale blue anymore... they're just blue.

Hailee Steinfeld (who I'm surprised to see... a good surprised... not many young actresses stick around after their first big/Oscar-nominated role... I still liked the original "True Grit" A LOT better and her rendering of that character is a big reason why... but I can blame the Coen brothers for that) was good as Petra and one of the few female characters this story has.
Abigail Breslin as Valentine as well... I almost didn't recognize her at first. She looks like the type that'd be too compassionate to do well in Battle School.

As a movie alone, it was decent. Good cast, good writing and so on. But I didn't feel like there was enough to get really excited about. The Battle Room scenes were the few times where that wasn't the case. I didn't know what to expect after reading the book and that was better than I could imagined it.

The ending (the part with the exposition I mentioned) was handled even better in the movie than the book because we were able to see what was really going on. In the book, it read as a dream sequence that I didn't know whether or not it was a dream.
And in the movie, we had another moment between Ender and Petra. Where we see that she cares for him and wants to look out for him, considering the fragile state he's in after the final battle simulation.


When I was going into writing this, I was thinking I was about to eat my own words.
I used to give other reviewers so much grief (never personally of course, but I'd spew insults at their articles) for not caring enough about the movie they were reviewing to do it any justice.

So to me it is a miracle that I didn't become one of those cynical people. "Ender's Game," if anything, allowed me to compare and contrast writing styles and determine what works for me and what doesn't.

Maybe I'll read the rest of the books, maybe I won't.

I just may get curious enough in the future to return to Oscar Scott Card... but it's not something I'm willing to rush. It's not like I got the books myself and I'm determining if I can make room for them on my shelves.... truth is I don't have any place for the books I enjoyed enough to read again.

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