MOVIE / BOOK REVIEW – ‘Ender’s Game’
The book is great and the movie was good. If somehow you have not read the book then the movie will be very good. Both are worth the time to read and to see.
MOVIE (2013): This movie is Scifi at its best. This is a fast moving film — it must be fast since it compresses four years of a character’s very busy lifetime into 90 minutes. The main character, Ender Wiggin, complains of needing more sleep (often in the book, and he is just tired in the film).
Backdrop: The world was invaded 50 years prior. This was the ‘First Invasion’. Bizarrely, for some unexplained reason we won. A single hit on a mother ship caused the invasion to unexpectedly stop. Literally the invasion stopped and it is a ‘state secret’ as to why. Joe Average doesn’t seem to have thought about asking why.
Post-war, We realize that the technology of future war takes more imagination and flexibility than an adult mind can muster — so we started recruiting children to become military officers and battle staff cadets at age 10 (age 6 in the book). These are the brightest kids on the planet, kids that can play games. Ender comes from a family of three such brilliant kids; his two older sibling wash out of military training, and the world now depends on him. His sister had too much empathy to be a warrior and his older brother was too quick to anger and had a sadistic streak — both are undesirable qualities in a commander that is expected to prosecute the war to end the war for all time and to save our specie.
Ender is both cynical and skeptical about everything. Ender’s adult trainers work to focus his abilities by isolating him from developing relationships with the other young trainees; his purpose is to be a ‘savior warrior’, not a child with military training. Constantly Ender is put into situations that bring out his survival instincts and tests his will to live. Ender is pared with five other brilliant child warriors; Ender becomes commander in the war games and they become his squadron commanders. There is only one problem: the adults may be misleading them.
>>> SHOULD YOU SEE THIS MOVIE: Yes! It is loud, colorful, and full of realistic technology that the movie’s producers make seem completely real. No cheesiness in this movie. The movie also provides a strong essence of truth: those damned kids on their XBoxes and Sony Playstations may well solve many of the world’s problems if we can connect them to real problemsolving. If you read the book then you will notice many missing subplots and storyline. Get over it. You will like this movie.
BOOK (1985): The book is a fast read despite the number of pages in it. It was written for a teen audience but adults love it. It remains on the ‘recommended reading list’ in many high schools AND within the U.S. military. Do not let the simpleness of the book’s prose fool you. There are many important concepts within its pages — which explains its popularity on military recommended reading lists.
You can commonly find this book on Amazon or on Google as an eBook for $4.
>>> The book differs from the movie in a number of ways. Written in 1985, the book still sees the world in terms of American and Soviet spheres of influence. Russia’s Warsaw Pact has overrun much of Europe and is referred to as the Second Warsaw Pact. World powers cooperate because they must — the external threat is greater … but should the external threat disappear then war between the great powers will resume, and it does by the book’s end. Archaic views now but reality then. All of this is absent in the movie and there is no allusion to any of it.
What is truly amazing is that the author was able to see and to portray a world with embedded technology everywhere and in everything. His view on war in the future is on the brilliant level of Arthur C. Clarke or Isaac Asimov. Just one example, tablet computing, interactive computer surfaces and artificial intelligence role-playing games figure prominently throughout the story. So does the existence of a worldwide internet that serves up multimedia. There are also bloggers which exert strong influence over public opinion. The ‘nets’ have supplanted the role of media in its influence.
Ender is a third child. The world has restricted families to only two children. While unwritten, it is implied that genetic selection is being practiced to produce unique children for the future of fighting war. Ender understands that his birth owes its existence for the purpose of becoming a battle staff officer.
At the tender age of 6, Ender is selected to go to military school where he trains to become a military battle staff officer. His older brother and sister were washouts — but they play prominent roles within the subplot by using the worldwide internet to become foreign and domestic policy bloggers. Their goal is create a logical reality which prepares the world for change, and which prepares the world to turn to them for answers. This will be a challenge as Peter the cruel older brother is just 12, and Valentine the older sister is just 10. Yet they pull it off. Peter and Valentine’s subplot role are not covered at all in the movie … although both make cameo appearances. Within the book Peter has an important role within world affairs by the book’s end and the movie ignores his existence other than showing him as a cruel big brother early on.
Much of the book focuses on the many trials and tribulations of Ender within the military battle school. The movie glosses over this time period and covers it all in perhaps just 10-15 minutes — yet his experiences in the school are some of the best parts of the book. The movie picks up with Peter going to Battle Command school. Within the movie there is a close parallel to the book, although the book lavishly spends time on character development and the movie focuses on developing Ender’s character and just barely.
Read the book. See the movie. You will be pleased.