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Movies Review

Movie Review – Ender’s Game

Note:  my love of the book predates any knowledge of OSC’s deplorable politics and views on gays.  Not discussing that here.

I have a long history with the book Ender’s Game.  My brother gave it to me to read after he read it and loved it, I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old.  It blew my mind, and it, along with my family’s love of Star Trek, kicked off my life-long love of science fiction.  So yeah, my brother and I have been waiting for a decent big-screen adaptation for 25 years.  Is this it?  Let’s take a look.

The first thing you have to remember is, no book or TV show or whatever survives it’s trip to the Hollywood blockbuster zone unscathed.  There are several aspects of the book that would make a movie unfilmable – especially the fact that the main character would have to age from 6 to 12.  The timeline is changed, so kid actors that can actually act can be used.  Sub-plots are minimized or left out.  It’s Ender’s story, so the Locke/Demosthenes stuff is left out.  It wouldn’t be very exciting, to be honest, though it leaves Peter as a common bully and not a flawed genius, like his brother and sister.

Visually, the thing that has to work is Battle School.  I love what they did with it here, having the Battle room glassed in looks fantastic, and the suits are sweet.  It’s telling that the main complaint many people have with the movie is that it moved too quickly.  But it’s already 2 hours, and more time would’ve been a lot to ask of a YA movie.

I was impressed when the casting announcements were made, and for the most part, it’s great.  Harrison Ford as Graff is great, especially the scenes where he’s bouncing off Viola Davis’s Major Anderson.  Asa Butterfield does Ender right, somehow making you believe in this kid and root for him, despite his obvious capability for violence and war.  Abigail Breslin’s Valentine doesn’t get much to do, again, her main plot wasn’t in the movie.  Hailee Steinfeld as Petra did a solid job, I loved the scene where she’s teaching him to shoot.  Gavin Hood et al resisted the love interest angle with just a few lingering looks that were suitably understated.  The rest of the kids were fine, with a mix of ex-Disney channel alums and other young stars.  Moises Arias had it tough as Bonzo, though.  He’s pretty short, and I remember the book having that as a fairly even matchup between he and Ender.  There wasn’t enough development for Bonzo to give him any hints of a Napoleon complex, or to establish him as some hand to hand master, so the fight in the shower just seemed like a mis-match.

Other problems?  Other than rushing a lot of things, we don’t get much of Command school.  I know montages get made fun of, but one or two would’ve served this movie.  They mis-use “The enemy’s gate is down” at the end, but the aftermath of that battle works pretty well, so I’ve forgiven them.  It’s also odd to think that the cocoon was sitting walking distance from them this whole time, exacerbated by the fact of a LIVE FORMIC QUEEN just hanging out in there.  The queen is able to speak into Ender’s mind in the books, even when in the cocoon, so while the live queen makes sense for non-fans, it’s tough to believe here.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the movie.  I kind of wish they could’ve made two movies, or a mini-series with this budget though, so everything could be juuuust right, but after 25 years, it wasn’t happening.  It’s better than I hoped.  Fans of the book probably already saw it, non-fans, it’s worth a matinee showing for you.

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Movies

Kid Movie Reviews – Hugo

I KNEW this would happen.  I bought a copy of Hugo the other day, and we watched it.  My son (the stick-in-the-mud who wouldn’t go see it with me in the theater) loved it.  I love it.  The visuals are amazing, the story wonderful, and the casting perfect.  I can’t wait to see Asa Butterfield and Ben Kingsley team back up for Ender’s Game.  I hope more of our great filmmakers get the itch to try a big-budget adaptation more often.

I won’t bore you by going over the details of the plot – considering the buzz it generated, you probably figured out the gist.  I would note that a sensitive younger child might be scared at a few different moments, especially if they have a tendency to invest themselves deeply in the movies they watch.  I still remember how upset Thomas was when Nemo got separated from Marlin in Finding Nemo.  There are a few action sequences but not enough to keep the attention of a more fidgety kid, also, but Thomas and Mattie paid very close attention.

If you were on the fence about seeing it, definitely do so.  It’s been one that my son has asked to see again and again, which is one way I judge just how good a movie is for kids.  For my part, it’s a film I can see myself being okay watching again and again.  Highly recommended.

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Featured Movies

Ender’s Game News – Ben Kingsley and Hollywood Whitewashing

Some notes:  This post has some plot details of Ender’s Game: The Book, so if you haven’t read it (and WHY NOT) read the rest of this at your own risk.

I hesitate to even write this, as Orson Scott Card’s books were a pretty fundamental part of my childhood, after I read my brother’s copy of Ender’s Game.  We Card fans have been looking forward to a movie based on the book for well over 15 years.  It’s never gotten far as Card wants to be sure the movie gets done right. Well, after many false starts, it finally looks like it’s happening.  People are getting cast (Slashfilm has the details on Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, and Hailee Steinfeld), there are writers and directors, the whole nine yards.  Sounds like a dream come true for a Card fan, and for Card himself.  I was on Facebook the other day when the news about Kingsley broke, and saw a fan ask Card what he thought.  What she got in return was a bit of a rant by Card about Hollywood and casting an actor who plays ‘white’ roles in a role he had pegged for a dark-skinned actor (Mazer Rackham, in the book, is a half-Maori New Zealander), disliking the Hollywood-ism that since he looks ‘ethnic’, it would work.  I attempted to comment but the thread was deleted (I didn’t screenshot it).  I then posted this on Card’s wall:

I know you wouldn’t want to be associated with Hollywood style whitewashing, but I can’t be mad at a role in Ender’s Game going to Ben Kingsley (if true). He’s a well-known name that can help get this movie in front of casual moviegoers. To me, the most important place to keep the diversity is with the Battle School kids.

That too was deleted quickly, and I didn’t press the issue.  In the book, Mazer’s heritage, in my opinion, is not as big a deal as Alai’s (a fellow student at Battle School who is Muslim) and the other kids.  I have friends who would disagree, but that’s how I se it.  With the adjustments you have to make to shorten a novel into a movie, I can see that bit of characterization for Mazer being ignored completely.  It’s referenced once, as a foil to the Jewish military leaders he out-thought in the second Bugger invasion, and wasn’t mentioned again.

I can understand that Ender’s Game is probably very close to Card’s heart.  Ender was based partially on his son Geoffrey, and the book still stands as one of his finest works.  I reread Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead all the time, and they hold up well.  That it is happening now is probably a testament to him finally letting go a bit, and wanting to see the movie done while people still want to see it.  Helps that the tech is finally there to do the battle room and command school justice.

Uncle Orson, I hope you can come to grips with whatever casting and story decisions are made, and judge the movie based on it’s merits.  The movie will be it’s own thing.  I’d hate to see bitterness in the decisions made cloud the joy of seeing something you created on the big screen.  Your book will always exist and be the first one picked up from my shelf when I want to read something good.  Let the process play out, see the result, and judge.  And like the friends I mentioned, I hope you got a dump truck full of cash in return for the stress this is causing.