I have wanted to watch the “Ender’s Game” movie but for one reason or other had put it off. I had read a couple bad reviews of the movie that had me worried about whether or not I would like it and that was a factor. Still, I know that it can be difficult to make a movie of a much loved book and that there are many pitfalls to navigate around so I wanted to see the movie for myself. I finally got the chance and started the movie hoping that I would not finish it disappointed.
One of the first impressions I got from the “Ender’s Game” movie is that it was a slick production and the world of the movie was different than the gritty world that I had envisioned when I read the novel. This was not a big deal but it did start the movie off on a different note than the images that I had in my mind. To add to this, I found that the CGI in the movie was impressive but it again did not quite match up with my imagination as I read the book. I had pictured sequences that were grittier and dirtier than the images in the movie. The movie definitely had more of a “Star Trek” feel of an idealized future rather than the more realistic feeling that I got from the book. Still, this was a minor difference for me and I thought that the special effects and war sequences in the movie were well done and effective. This was a difference for me and one that I think may have been detrimental for some fans of the book, but I still enjoyed those sequences and thought that they did not detract from the story.
The other strength of the movie was the acting. Asa Butterfield did a more than passable job as Ender Wiggins. While I do not think that the character was overly compelling, he was sufficient in the role and pulled off the aura of confusion that surrounds the character throughout the story even while he is forced to take decisive action. Harrison Ford in the role of Colonel Graff did more than his fair share in contributing to the movie as well. While many of the characters seemed just a touch too polished to seem quite real, Ford brought a gritty and tough aspect to the film that was missing in most of the characters. It was easy to forget at times that the movie is focused on the entire human race preparing for a war that they feel will be the salvation of the race if they win but Ford made this much more believable through his character. I also that that Moises Arias as Ender’s nemesis in battle school, Bonzo, not only looked the part but was an excellent casting choice for his portrayal of the team commander who led by bravado rather than talent.
There are really two elements of the move that kept it from being less effective than the novel. The first, and lesser, point is the fact that Ender’s training is minimized in the movie. While the training, and thus the shaping of Ender, was the centerpiece of the book, much of it is glossed over in the movie. While this was seemingly done In the interest of keeping the movie to a shorter length, it changes the impact of the story and shifts the focus from the molding of Ender to the final battle. This shift in focus detracts from the overall impact of the movie as Ender is still being manipulated by Graff and the military but that does not seem to be the main focus of the movie. The movie focuses more on the end result of the training rather than the psychological impact of the training. The movie does shift the focus some at the end by exploring the end result but the main point of the story is weakened by this change.
The second element of the novel that is completely missing from the book is the impact of Ender’s siblings on the story. While Ender is training to destroy the aliens, his brother and sister work at subverting the system on Earth. Ender is preparing to lead the human race to a victory over its enemies while they work on setting the stage for humans to change the political climate on Earth and become a more prosperous and harmonious race. That is the intent, at least. In the movie, Ender’s older brother is almost nonexistent and his sister is more of a figure in his mind rather than a real person. This removes an element from the story of the power of the young and makes the story of the movie weaker for its omission.
Overall, the movie version of “Ender’s Game” is a sufficient movie but one that lacks all of the elements that it needs to be a truly compelling movie as the novel is. While I enjoyed watching the movie, I found it simply entertaining rather than powerful. Fans of the novel should not hesitate to watch the movie but are sure to feel some disappointment at the changes to the story. Those who will only watch the movie are sure to be entertained but will not enjoy the emotional impact of the novel. My recommendation is to read the novel and then watch the book for the fullest enjoyment of the story.