Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ender's Game, a review.

I have not read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, or any other book he has written. But I am aware that Ender’s Game is one of the iconic science fiction books. I am also aware the Card has controversial views on homosexuality. But if I was going to boycott a film or book because I did not agree with the personal views of its writer, actor or director, I would not be reading or watching much. I certainly wouldn’t be watching any movies involving Charlton Heston, Roman Polanski, Bruce Willis or even, until a recent change, Harrison Ford. This is why I don’t read much about the lives of authors of books I like. Otherwise I end up reading that Margaret Atwood is actually very conservative, perhaps even right-wing. When I go to writer’s festivals I go to learn about writing, not about the author. On to the review.

I read a review of Ender’s Game before I went and saw the movie. That review started by saying the main character, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, in the original book was only six years old, but he is sixteen in the movie. A decade of difference in age should make the character entirely different: all that life experience, all that loss of innocence. I imagined fans of the book screaming their dismay.  

The movie begins about fifty years in the future on an Earth that was previously attacked by aliens, the insect like Formics. Only the heroics of airforce pilot Mazer Rackham saved Earth from falling to the invaders. Ever since that invasion, the militaries of Earth have been preparing to defend against another attack by the Formics. To do this they have created a large force of drone spaceships.  

The drones are remote piloted by teenagers. We are told that teenagers are used because they are quick to assimilate information and try different strategies. Ender is recruited by the military to be one of the commanders of these drone pilots. He is sent to an academy on a space station.

Ender is a loner and outcast and has to win over fellow recruits and fight off aggressive competitors. The movie began to feel like Hogwarts set in space. And I am no Harry Potter fan, but I found Ender’s trials and confrontations interesting. Ender had a way of ending disputes for good, which is the reason he was recruited.

The film ends with a twist that dramatically increases the gravity of everything that has gone before.

I enjoyed the film and the questions it raises, such as can innocence be used as a weapon? How far would humanity go to protect itself against potential invaders? And what if we are totally unable to communicate with the first aliens we come into contact with?

I did not find anything homophobic about the film. I think Orson Scott Card should take some advice from Ender who wanted to try and communicate with the aliens, and try to communicate with the gay community. He might find they are not that different from him.

Since watching the movie I have discovered that Ender’s Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead both won the Hugo and Nebula Awards, in 1985 and 1986 respectively. I also discovered that Orson Scott Card is a Mormon, so his views on homosexuality are probably dictated by his religious beliefs, which is not unusual.


Anthony J. Langford said...

Can't say I'm fond of seeing it as I've seen some bad reviews.

But you make a good point about the lives of artists. It's a good point - don't get too close to your heroes they say, for good reason. He has said some rather narrow things given he is supposed to be writing of the future.

I was aware of the novel back in the 80's but never read it. I'm sure I've read other books of his though, a couple of movie tie ins?

Graham Clements said...

I wonder if any of those bad reviews were written by people who had taken issue with Orson Scott Card's personal views, and they were reviewing the author and not the movie. A headline in the Sydney Morning Herald seemed to bemoan the fact that the movie was doing okay despite the author's views. I often wonder about that in regards to bad reviews of three classic science fiction films, War of the Worlds (the remake), Minority Report and this year's best, Oblivion. Are they reviewing the movie or their hatred of Tom Cruise's personal life? See more on my next post about that. Oh, and Ender's Game is an okay film, especailly for those who are like science fiction films about themes and ideas, rather than just alien war films.