Although people who loved the book will find much to love here – it really is a good movie – the potential impact is too soft for the epic it aspires to be.
-Kevin A. Ranson, Movie Crypt
About as good a film as you can squeeze out of a morally complex source work given today’s studio environment.
-Mark Keizer , Alt Film Guide
Decades in the making, Orsen Scott Card’s “unfilmable” novel has finally hit cinemas. The first screen adaptation of Ender’s Game: Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.
The cinematic version of Ender’s Game is, for good reason, much more streamlined and less meandering than the novel. The backbone and structure of the book are still in tact, essentially with quick cuts between the major scenes and set pieces in place of the smoother transitions the book uses. Understandably, this is about the best the filmmakers could have done considering the massive scale and stakes of the book. There is only so much that can fit in a 115 minute run time and unfortunately a lot of the books charm and whimsy is lost in translation.
As far as portraying the central storyline from the novel as cinematic as possible, the film does a pretty remarkable job. Battles at the Battle School are fully realized and well done. The effects look great across the board, particularly in a recurring all-cgi dream/game sequence that Ender has. The alien race from the book is hidden from view until the very end of the film, which works great. The creature design is unique and incredibly interesting to look at. One relatively minor flaw is the mundaneness of the set design. Battle School and Command School seem like nothing more than endless mazes of intersecting generic hallways and rooms that are shiny and metallic in nature. A little variety to these environments could have gone a long way.
One of the major flaws inherent of adapting a book of this scope to the screen is a loss of detail. This is especially evident in Ender’s Game. All the meat is there but most of the connective tissue is missing. There is virtually zero time for tension, buildup, character development or the exploration of many of the relationships Ender has in the novel. It feels like story beat after story beat, checking each major plot point off until the film is over. What ended up on the screen is very well done, it’s just missing a lot of the little things that made the book great.
Fans of the book will find a lot to like, but it’s not the same experience as reading it for the first time. Those who are unfamiliar with the source material may get confused at times due to the lack of quick nature of the films plotting and lack of explanatory dialogue. The way the ending of the film is written is jarring and somewhat off-putting, being much too tonally different from the scenes immediately prior. Thus, the film finishes on a somewhat sour note.
Ender’s Game is a valiant attempt at adopting the unfilmable novel and is much better than many anticipated. However, a lot of the idiosyncrasies and quirks of the book are left out and do the film no favors. It’s still a solid sci-fi film and worth checking out, who knows when we’ll see another Ender film?