A Misanthrope’s Guide to the Movies: “Ender’s Game”

ender

The book Ender’s Game inspired my life. I’m not a sci-fi freak, but anyone who has read Orson Scott Card’s masterpiece understands that it is much more than a fantasy novel. In 7th grade, I wrote an essay about how I was going to become an astronaut and train in a zero gravity “battle room” just like Ender did—and that’s still kind of my life dream. I was hoping to live my fantasy on the big screen, but the movie, based on the book and released a couple weeks ago, was more laughable than inspirational.

For those who have neither read the book nor seen the movie, here’s a quick synopsis: Earth was attacked by aliens and we fought them off the first time, but we need to attack them again before they wipe us out. Brilliant children are recruited to become space army commanders, and Ender Wiggin is the military’s last hope. He goes to battle school in space and trains to fight the aliens. It’s kind of a mix between The Hunger Games and Star Wars. I admit this sounds a little ridiculous, but trust me, it’s powerful stuff.

As much as I wanted to love the movie, it lacked the psychological depth that makes Ender’s Game what it is. The parts that were supposed to be really intense became hilarious. First of all, Ender’s cruel commander Bonzo is played by the same kid who played Rico in Hannah Montana. I could only imagine him as an annoying little squirt messing with an innocent Miley Cyrus on a Malibu beach, not getting into violent fights in space.

Ender's Game

Left: Annoying little kid. Right: Still annoying, but with muscles.

At times, the movie felt more like a RomCom than a sci-fi thriller. The “friendship” between Ender and Petra, an older girl who takes him under her wing in battle school, is more of a pseudo-romance full of hand-holding and eye-sex. I’m assuming this is the reason the movie is PG-13. Also, I’m pretty sure Ender is supposed to be six years old at this point, according to the book—that’s definitely not kosher. When the two first meet, Petra says to him, “The battle room is open 24/7. During free time I could show you some moves.” They fly into zero gravity holding hands, and the sexual tension is as tight as their battle suits.

Ender's game

Even though this is a sci-fi movie starring pre-teens, it has some quotable lines that are very applicable to college life. Some words of wisdom from Ender’s Game:

“This is basic rocket science, people.” (Battle school teacher to trainees.) Okay, professor, we know you have a Nobel Prize, no need to rub it in.

 “If you take away my free time, I will get you iced.” (Ender to Bonzo, on getting him sent back to Earth.) This threat might not work as well on our professors, though.

“This is not a conversation we should be having at 1 a.m.” (Petra to Ender, on discussing the aliens’ feelings the night before battle.) Applicable to most 1 a.m. conversations in college.

“The enemy’s gate is down.” (Ender’s friend Bean, on how to view the battlefield in zero gravity.) New plan of attack: final exams are down.

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.” (Ender, on something really deep.) This line is basically the point of the book, so you’ll have to read it—or I guess watch the movie—to understand it. But I’m going to argue that this also applies to schoolwork: the material is the enemy, and when we finally understand it well enough to kill the exam, we love it. So in your battles against midterms, conjure your inner Ender Wiggin and kill ‘em.

The final word: The Ender’s Game movie is an entertaining throwback, and it has a hint of the book’s intensity and genius, but it’s no match for the real thing. The plot twist in the movie is anticlimactic, the side-stories of all the characters aren’t even touched on, and the battle room doesn’t look like it’s supposed to (but it’s still freaking cool). Read the book instead.

1 Comment

  1. mike

    Nicely done.I’m a parent who shares love of ender with my brunonian. You nailed thesis statement of the book.

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