Friday, November 22, 2013

PCP in Theaters - Ender's Game

My wife and I are good friends with another couple, Ryan and Amber, and they reached out to us about going to see Ender's Game in theaters. They are both big sci-fi and fantasy fans (and Ryan has a similar but geekier blog called Skillpoint Station which I encourage you to check out) and had bonded over their enjoyment of the book. Meanwhile, my wife and I hadn't read the book, but we were always up for a fun night out, so we agreed. I read the book rapidly in the week before we saw the film, so I could judge the film while having the book fresh in my mind. I wonder if that made it better or worse?

Ender's Game - 2013, rated PG-13. My rating: 7 out of 10.

Ender's Game is set in the future, on an Earth different from ours. Humanity has defeated an alien invasion, and are working towards preparing for round two of the war versus the alien invaders, the bug-like Formics. Humanity has started a program of testing of their children to find those that have tactical & strategic genius, and then shipping them off to a special school called Battle School to hone their combat abilities. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) is our protagonist, a super-genius that the leaders of the school Col. Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) believe may hold the key to humanity's survival versus the Formics, a species that vastly outnumbers humanity.

Ender's studies in the school consist of tactical games in the zero-g battle room, which was pretty nifty to see on the big screen. He learns to deal with frustration, learns even more brilliant tactics, makes friends with most of his peers, and learns to lead on the battlefield. Before long he is graduated to the Command School, where he now commands fleets of ships in a virtual reality simulation against the Formics. As he faces ever more insurmountable odds, he has to find more ways to win, lest he flunk out and fail his teachers. In terms of the plot, I'm going to stop there until later in this post in the spoilers section, so as not to give anything away now.

Having the book fresh in my mind, I was slightly disappointed in the film, but I also had low expectations. I knew that there was no way the film would be able to show all of the battles that the book contained, without being significantly longer than its two hour running time. In the book, Ender went through some 50 odd battles, but in the film he has only a handful, which really doesn't give the audience the chance to see just how outside the box his ideas were and how much more advanced than his peers he really was. I think if the film was maybe about 20 minutes longer and had a few more battles then it would've been better. Also, I didn't like that the film (or the book for that matter) didn't really comment on the idea of training children for war or have anything to say about just how awful of a thing that is.

Visually, the film was pretty well done, with great visual effects including the zero-g combat of Battle School, and the immersive virtual reality of the massive battles of Command School. The effects were better than I expected them to be, with the film only having a budget of $110 million. Overall though, the film is a lot of flash and not a lot of substance, and I thought it was good but disappointing. I think I would've liked it better had I not read the book. Of the four of us that saw the movie that day, my wife was the only one that hadn't read the book and she liked the film the best. So, when this film comes out on blu-ray, rent it from your local library or Redbox now that Blockbuster is toast, or stream it. It's still worth seeing, but you don't need to rush out and see it while it's still in theaters.

Ok if you don't want spoilers, stop here. After the jump I'm going to be talking about changes from the book to the film and discussing some of my beefs with the plot of the film in greater details. So again, from here on out, SPOILERS AHEAD after the jump! --->