Looks like I was wrong about a couple of things today #rarities. The wife got out of work early today, so we made it to a matinee of #EndersGame. As a result, my review of the movie will happen now, Friday evening, instead of trying to squeeze it in before football tomorrow. Also, #Thor will not be our last #datenight before the baby arrives. When I mentioned to Kate that I figured it would be, she very politely suggested I see it with my brother, my father, my nephews, or just about anyone else that is NOT her. Looks like our last date will be #CatchingFire. I should have known. Her phone's message tone is that bird whistle from #TheHungerGames. It gets very confusing when we watch the movie, or see a commercial. So there's that. I was not wrong, however, on my expectations of Ender's Game.
I'll be the first to admit, I throw the word 'best' around all the time. "That was the best steak I've ever had." "That was one of the best finishes to a game I've ever seen." "My wife is the best wife ever, and my little puppy girl is the best dog ever." For the sake of this blog entry, forget about my sometimes abuse of the word "BEST".
Ender's Game is one of the best science fiction novels of all time. Really, it is. Don't take my word for it, either. Google a list, or ask a very nerdy (probably very cool) friend, or something. #OrsonScottCard is regarded as one of the best sci-fi novelists of all time with the #EnderSeries being his crown achievement. Having said that, Ender's Game is also the best movie I have seen in 2013. Hands down, the best.
To start with just the basics, it was an excellent film. Forget about genre, adaptations, and #SciFi in general, it was a great piece of filmmaking. I'm looking forward to whatever #GavinHood does in the future. Visually, it was awesome. We didn't see it in 3D, we don't really like it. It makes pregnant women dizzy, and it gives me a headache if I don't get to take a break. But when you see it, see it in 3D. At one point, I turned to Kate, and said, "This scene would be fantastic 3D." Even she couldn't disagree.
The acting was amazing. #AsaButterfield was #Ender. I don't mean he played Ender, I mean he totally embraced the character perfectly, and became Ender. He always looked like he was about to cry, or kill you, and that's absolutely perfect. #HarrisonFord was equally great as Colonel Graff. The character is military-minded to a fault, with a dose of anger that feels just a bit unhealthy. I can count on one hand other actors that could have pulled it off as well. #BenKingsley as the mysterious Mazer Rackham was another perfect casting. I mean, you can't really go wrong with Sir Ben. He was Ghandi, for pete's sake. And how about little #AbigailBreslin? A lot of people won't recognize her since she's 17 years old now. Think back to when she was 10 and nominated for an #Oscar, #LittleMissSunshine. She'll have 5 of them before she hits 30.
My biggest worries about the movie, were the typical worries when adapting a novel into film. "It's too short, and they cut out too many important characters and subplots." "They changed the plot to placate the 'Hollywood audience'." "That character is nothing how I imagined him/her." "Since I can't read characters' thoughts the story makes no sense."
For the most part, those weren't issues with this adaptation. With a few minor exceptions, the screenplay perfectly followed the plot of the book. Dismiss from your mind immediately, the idea of encompassing everything you read in a book, being on the screen. Unless they re-introduce 5 hour movies with intermissions, it's never gonna happen. (By the way, I'm totally down for that if they serve dinner and drinks during intermission. I'll pay a hundred bucks for a full night of recreation for me and my lady.) In the book it felt like weeks and months passed in Battle School, playing the Game, and at Command School. The movie made it feel like everything happened in possibly a month. Another important change was in the character of Major Gwen Anderson played by #ViolaDavis. For the movie they combined at least two, possibly three characters into one, and they made her a female. Making her a female detracted nothing from the story. If anything, it added to the story, as there weren't many strong, adult, female characters in the the book. The big change was that the character was never actually at Battle School. She/He corresponded with #Graff solely by email. How the hell would you translate a bunch of emails into something viewable, that would keep an audience interested? The answer is, you can't. That kind of thing, has to be contracted, and adapted for the screen. And they did a good job of it.
There can be a legitimate complaint about some of other character development in this adaptation. Part of that can be explained by the fact that Card has written 13 novels about the characters, with at least two forthcoming, and numerous short stories. That's a lot to hash out in 114 minutes. For the sake of this not being an eleven page blog entry, I'll break down each character as briefly as possible.
Bernard - In the movie, he was a dickhead that eventually came around to Ender's side. I barely remember him in the book. He was a minor character who was on #Bonzo side, and then quickly forgotten.
#BonzoMadrid - In the movie, he was a villain. Ender handled him, and felt very bad. In the book he was a psychopath hellbent on killing Ender, and EVERYONE knew it, Ender included. Ender killed him, dead. Then he felt very bad.
Graff - In the movie all Graff cared about was developing the next commander of the International Fleet, at all costs. It's also true in the book, but you get more of a feeling that he's torn up about what he's doing to Ender.
Mazer Rackham - I never fully understood him in the movie, or the book. The only difference in the book, is that after the Second Formican War, he was sent away in a spaceship at faster than light speed, so that he wouldn't age while the Fleet looked for a new commander to train.
Petra - Petra was Ender's best friend at Battle School, as seen in the movies. There was even the suggestion of possible romance, which made me want to vomit. In the books Ender really only had one person he cared about; his sister. Petra was, however, his closest confidante. Petra Arkanian got a whole book written about her.
Bean - According to the film, Bean was a good, trustworthy, soldier and friend. In the books, Bean didn't really care for Ender at all. Bean was a brilliant tactician, and a possible military commander. Ender picked on him and rode him harder than anyone else in his platoon. The explanation was that Ender knew Bean could be a leader, and needed to be isolated from everyone else. Just as Graff isolated Ender from the other launchies, Ender isolated Bean. Bean didn't get it initially. Julian Delphiki, aka Bean, also got a book to himself.
Valentine Wiggin - Val was Ender's voice of empathy and reason, keeping him from turning to the dark side. The only thing you could have missed from the movie, was that Val also attended Battle School. She was a damn genius. After Ender won the war, she ended up a major part in shaping humankind's development.
Peter Wiggin - With only a minute or two of screen time, Gavin Hood did one hell of a job showing how much of Peter shaped Ender's persona. Peter was the antithesis of Valentine. He completely lacked empathy, but promoted all of Ender's drive towards self-preservation, mercilessness, and even brutality. Those feelings made Ender the great military commander he was, and eventually made Peter the foremost leader in human history. He, with Valentine share a sequel about what happens next.
Ender - Ender has the most discrepancies between the movie and books, which makes sense. He's the protagonist and you can't read all of his thoughts and emotions onscreen. Remember Stilson? That bully that Ender beat up at the beginning of the movie? In the book Ender didn't know it, but he killed him. "...just remember what happens when people try to hurt me." That's what got him into Battle School. Or how about Bonzo? When I said everyone knew Bonzo wanted to kill him, I meant EVERYONE. The administrators argued about letting them ever be alone together. Ender's 'Jeesh' (Dragon Army crew) assigned guards to stick by him at all times. When Bonzo finally got him alone, Ender killed him too. That got him his final test. They woke him at 3am, to fight two armies instead of the usual one, and his opponents got extra time to place their armies. And he won, anyway. Keep in mind, that in the book, Ender's Dragon Army hadn't lost any of their 13 battles, despite constantly being given a decisive disadvantage at every stage. That's why he was the highest ranked out of anyone in the school. And so what did they do? They took away his lieutenants. Petra, Bean, and Dink were all promoted and given there own armies. That's when Ender had enough and quit. "If you're just going to keep changing the rules after I win, I'm done playing." Ender was a #BMF
That's a whole lot to change for the main character, but it worked for me. The characters stayed real, and their behaviors maintained fluidity. Some might not like it, but my wife is an English teacher, loves the book, and loved the movie. That's good enough for me.
I only have two minor complaints. One, there was a scene where Harrison Ford had a piece of food on his lower lip. Seriously? Who the hell missed that one? Fire him now. My second complaint is the previews that showed before the movie.
I, Frankenstein - Frankenstein was the name of the doctor that made the monster, not the name of the monster. Also, the movie looks ridiculous.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Cool trailer, but I've already seen it a bunch of times. I like the previews to surprise me.
#TheBookThief - Ok this one looks great, and will probably be up for #BestPicture
Pompeii - I already know how this one ends. The volcano wins.
I would love for Ender's Game to be the start of a new franchise. I don't know if it's possible. The books and stories that follow will be even more difficult to adapt into movies. Their only option, in my opinion, is to make #EndersShadow and stop. If they only tell Bean's story, they can take as much artistic license as they want, and the rest of the stories be damned. Especially, since Card is still writing. But if this is the only one we get, I'll take it and be happy. The did a helluva job.
(P.S Anyone want to see Thor with me next weekend?)