Popcorn and a Book (32): Ender’s Game

Ender's Gameender

The Book: 1985

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (Tor Books)

The Film: 2013

Ender’s Game directed by Gavin Hood (Summit Entertainment)

In a very tight nutshell, Ender’s Game is about a boy prodigy who has been recruited by the government to train to fight “Buggers”—an insect-like alien species that decades before attacked earth. The colonel in charge of the recruits, Colonel Graff, sees Ender as the strongest candidate for the leader of their army despite his small stature and young age, and so Graff pushes Ender to his psychological limits to ensure the destruction of the threatening alien colony.

When I was in grade twelve, I took an amazing literature studies course in which Ender’s Game was required reading. When I read the cover copy, I really didn’t think it was something I would enjoy. Boy, was I wrong. It is a fascinating read that not only has plenty of action and a well-developed futuristic world, but the focus on Ender’s mind is so captivating! Seeing the way this child thinks and processes information and emotions is really interesting. I enjoyed that the aliens stay in the background for the most part even though their presence is what drives the characters forward. Complex and way ahead of its time, Ender’s Game is a book I highly recommend.

Because of my high appreciation for the book, I was a bit nervous about the film, but I actually quite enjoyed the movie. As is expected when a complex story is condensed into two hours, a lot of the story is lost, but so long as you don’t go into it with the mindset that it needs to contain everything the book does I think you will enjoy it. The focus is kept exclusively on Ender (played by Asa Butterfield) with the other characters being very two-dimensional if they make it into the movie at all. Asa did an amazing job bringing Ender to life; having a child try to be intimidating and a in control could easily have come off cheesy, but I found he always came of as very sincere and intense.

The special effects were awesome. I especially loved the battle games and the end battle—parts I clearly remembered from the books. In fact, they did a good job of hitting all the major plot points I remembered. The very end felt a bit tacked on and could have used a bit more bridging to get there, but it is definitely important if they intend to make a sequel (which I hope they do).

The only thing that bothered me about the film was how they tried to show Ender’s siblings’ personalities: Valentine being very compassionate and Peter being psychotic. All they needed to do was explain why Ender’s siblings didn’t make it into the military program (which Ender does say), instead of having one very rushed scene in which Peter strangles Ender in a “game.” This scene just felt so out of place, I’m sure provoking a “What the hell was that supposed to be?” from non-readers. If you’ve read the books you know just how dark Peter is, how very disturbing. But when Peter is just a fleeting character, it just didn’t work trying to show his darkness.

Also, I would have liked the movie to go into Ender’s understanding of the Buggers a bit more and what makes him connect with them…but I guess there just wasn’t time.

Yes, the book is much more involved, and there is a lot more back-story and what happens after the final battle, but on its own, I thought Ender’s Game was a great, very entertaining movie. Definitely worth the cost of admission.

“Popcorn and a Book” is a monthly meme where I compare one book with its adapted film. If you would like to participate in this meme, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.

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