Shawn Wildermuth's Rants and Raves

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My Impressions of Ender's Game
My Impressions of Ender's Game
November 3, 2013


Ender’s Game is a book I meant to read. Everyone I know has read it and just loved it. When I heard the movie was coming out, I decided it was time to read it in time to see the movie.

The verdict on the book is that I loved it. The themes were very important to me and I lost some amount of sleep trying to get to the end of some chapters.

Unfortunately, the movie didn’t do it justice. To be clear, I know that a movie’s format limits itself in what you can justifiably do in adapting a book. I understand that. There have been plenty of movies I’ve seen after I read the book that I liked. This wasn’t one of those.

My real problem is that I knew that they needed to shorten some sequences to fit it into a two hour movie and eliminate several subplots, but at the same time they seemed to miss the tone and gravity of the book. (pun not intended)

Renaming the Buggers to the Formix made me realize that there was something very wrong from the start.

Let’s start with Asa Butterfield. He did a great job with the material, but he is too old. All the ‘kids’ were too old. Part of the weight of the book for me was that he was so young when they took him to Battle School. He was six in the book when he started and I believe eleven when he left. Stealing his childhood is an important theme to me. They made it look like it was six weeks of basic training. The fact that Bonzo was smaller than he seemed to exemplify that the children were too old for their parts.

They abbreviated the sequences of the game at Battle school way too much. Part of the story was that he was better than everyone from the start. And that everyone hated him for it. Especially since he was so much younger than the rest of the Battle School. His progression to keep teaching the launchies when he was in Bonzo’s unit was important to me too. It separated him from the rest of the field.

I was also concerned with the way they handled the Bonzo fight. It made it look like he fell accidently. This should have been the second time that Ender killed someone and they didn’t want him to know he was capable of it. This leads to a later reveal about that he is already a killer that pushes forward the story once in Command School.

My impression of the book was this theme that the teachers were changing the rules on him constantly. The daily games, then the twice daily games, then the two teams against one pushed this idea that no matter what he did, they were never satisfied and had to push him further. During this section, he was exhausted (and would be through the end of the book) and this was never explored. They mentioned that sleep deprivation was part of the training, but no one looked tired.

I could go on, but I’ll end with my biggest problem. The “games” at the end lacked the weight of the reveal that he was already fighting the battles because they switched it up to use drones instead of pilots in most of the ships. The loss of 1000 people in the transports was mentioned, but in the last battle the weight of genocide plus the loss of tens of thousands of soldiers gave the gravity. The switch from elation to falling apart in the end wasn’t believable.

Unfortunately, this was Starship Troopers all over again. Hrmph.

If you saw it, do you agree with my disappointment?