03 November 2013

The Thing About Ender's Game

People have been waiting 20 years for Ender’s Game to come out as a movie. I’ve heard all sorts of rumors about the author, Orson Scott Card, not wanting to give up the movie rights and no one being able to write a good enough script and the everlasting fight about how Ender is supposed to be 12, not 16.

This movie has been a long time in coming.

And now it’s finally here.

I must admit to being a HUGE fan of the book when I was a teenager.  Who am I kidding, I’m still a huge fan of the book. I loved Ender’s Shadow as well, and in general find the whole story fascinating.

To be frank, this is one of the best examples for #BeMeanToCharacters that I can think of. (With the Dresdon files in the running as well). Poor Ender doesn’t catch a break the entire book.  And the reason is because the adults, who are trying to train him to be the next uber-awesome military commander, do everything in their power to push him to his limits and beyond.

This includes making sure he doesn’t really make friends, gets put into no-win situations every single chapter, changing the rules on him the moment he even looks like he might take a steadying breath and constantly reminding him that he’s supposed to be “the one.”

No pressure.

If you need a good #BeMeanToCharacters book that isn’t hugely long, read Ender’s Game.

Now, let me start by saying that I really enjoyed the movie. As a fan of the book, I didn’t need all of the situations played out on the screen to get what was going on. I filled in the blanks with my spotty memory of the novel. (Plus, the visuals were awesome.)

Which worked for me, but a friend pointed out (quite passionately) that the movie never allowed Ender to really cope with anything. As a matter of fact, they say at one point to make sure he never feels like he is going to get any help.  Then, ten minutes later, they have his entire group moving away from the bully to Ender’s table at lunch.

Suddenly they all love him.

This never really happened in the book. And when it looked like he might be making friends, the adults would toss something new into the mix to make things complicated.

This is the part of the story that the movie missed. They SAY how brilliant Ender is, but as an audience, we only SEE it once or twice.

The whole reason people care about Ender is because they experience what he goes through and he never stops fighting. He’s always thinking of a way to get out of a situation or beat the odds. And he uses what he has, even after he gets the worst of the worst to work with.

What the movie did capture, was Colonel Graff’s position as the adult training these kids to go to war. He makes some ugly calls, and I actually felt for him more than I did Ender a few times.

Which is NOT what the story is about, and softened the blow of the ending, in my opinion.

If you find a story flat, it may be because of this very thing. The writers/author didn’t have the guts to be as mean to the character as they should have.

Granted, there are loads of reasons for a story to stay in the “Good” category and not get shifted into the “Great” category. This is just one of them. But considering how much people love their fictional characters, I feel like it’s pretty important.



Ryan said...

The problem was pacing. There wasn't enough time to establish character, the relationships, the tensions, or the plot.

-Jo- said...

Pretty much. Which is too bad, because they could have done it in less than 15 minutes.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen it yet (life has been unkind to me lately-snif! heehee) But I want to thank you for one of your comments, Jo. If a story falls flat, it may be becasue the author didn't have the guts to be as mean to the character as they should have. I think I needed that kick in the keester.