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Reel Thoughts: Ender’s Game


I went to see Ender’s Game Halloween Night with That Guy, a couple of friends who had read the book, and a couple of friends who had not read the book. We had to wait until the late late show because a) I had to work until 9, and b) it was Halloween and those of us in neighborhoods with kids had to wait until the trick-or-treaters were done circling the grounds for their candy fix.

Now, all of us that went are total geeks: gamer geeks, computer geeks, sci-fi geeks, so this type of movie should have been perfect for us. Space, aliens, crucial climax at the end that turns everything around- just wonderful (and the book does that, BTW). The movie, not so much. (Note: If you are a real lover of the book, definitely distance yourself from it before seeing the movie.)

THE AWESOME

The actors: really, the cast couldn’t have been better chosen. Ender (Asa Butterfield)  and the young crew whom the whole of Earth are depending on to save them from the horrible “bugs” are entirely into their parts, and you can feel their emotions. Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) are perfect foils for each other, battling diametric viewpoints of how to treat these soldiers. It is so not their fault that the movie fails them.

The visuals: the graphics are really intense, and really bring the scenes to life. When Ender’s Game was originally written in 1985 (short story in 1977) there is no way that they could have envisioned the technology that we have today- yet the book details the gaming scenarios that are brought to life beautifully through CGI technology. The tech is spot on, and that makes a difference when you are a geek- trust me, I live with one.

THE GOOD

The cleaning/changes: the movie radically different from the book in many ways, and one good change from that is that it takes out all of the slurs and racial profiling. The cast is diverse (in fact, of the three major adult actors, one is Caucasian, one is half
Gujrati Indian/ half British, and one is black), and none of the controversial language that was in the original or some of the updated copies of the book (about Bonzo, for example) are in the movie.


Would I see it again? No. It did not give me that movie buzz that I get from a good/great movie (see after the spoilers for the bad and the picky parts), and defintely not enough for me to go out and watch it or even buy it for my personal DVD collection. Will I purchase it for my library? Yes, because it’s a popular title, and it fits with what my community will want to watch. Will I show it for a program? No, not unless my teens specifically ask for it- there are better movies to tie into programming.

Rottentomatoes.com has Ender’s Game listed as 52% (rotten) by the Top Critics and 61% (fresh) by all critics.


SPOILER SPACE


 

Hello,

my name 
is Trevor..






THE BAD
The Pacing: I don’t know who decided that the time sequencing in the movie needed to be non-existent but it completely throws everything off. There’s no aging with Ender or anyone else, so you start and end with Ender at the same age, which means everything happens in less than a year. It throws off the relationships- why does Bean completely trust Ender, why does Petra immediately gravitate towards him? And there’s no building of the father-son relationship between Graff and Ender that there is in the book, either. There’s no building of trust, there’s no building of the relationships in the movie- just this headlong spike towards the battle, and after it’s over and it’s revealed that Ender has completely wiped out the “Bugs” home planet, his betrayal seems less that what it could be because of this.

The Story:  If you’re going to set up a dystopian futuristic movie, then you’re going to have to explain all of the dystopian aspects. You can’t just have Ender depressed because he’s a useless third without explaining beforehand that humans aren’t allowed to have more than two kids without permission. You really shouldn’t have a war-torn Earth with billions killed yet set everything on Earth in a nice suburban neighborhood. And you really shouldn’t set every female figure in the movie (Ender’s mother, Major Anderson, Petra, and Valentine) to be huge balls of emotion to try and play out a romance angle when there wasn’t one in the book. It doesn’t read well, and doesn’t come off well.

THE RANTY

Hold on, it’s going to get a bit bumpy.

First off, if you’re going to introduce Peter and Valentine, why cut out their entire story? I mean, really?!?!?! You have Peter for five seconds, Valentine (played by an ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED ACTRESS) for maybe 5 minutes, and you’re not going to let them take over the EARTH?!?!?! What is WRONG with you people?!?! 

Second, if you’re going to introduce the Mind Game, use it completely. The game was twofold: first, he worked through his doubts and second, he was contacted by the “Bugs”. In the movie, he was destroyed by the snake (Peter) and then never conquered his fears- thereby missing the importance of compassion and sacrifice.

Third, you can’t just end the movie with LALALA, they’re not going to let me go home, so I’m going off on a grand adventure (and I stole the last “Bug” egg). It DOESN’T WORK. You have to give REASONS, people. There were REASONS he couldn’t go back home- everyone on his team were wanted by their home countries, but EVERYONE wanted Ender, so he would cause RIOTS. It was a long and thought out decision, not just spur of the moment. And it was also determined because one of his team couldn’t handle what they had done and suicided, and Ender was on the brink of going mad. So he had to save himself AND the egg.

Finally, I am actually really upset with the way they used the female characters in this movie. Major Anderson was a strong character, but she gets emotional she gets fired. Petra has an immediate friendship with Ender in the movie, and that turns into something more by the end- otherwise why would she be sitting by his bedside? And poor Valentine- her intelligence is completely chucked out the window, and all that remains is a ball of mush. She runs to get her parents when Peter is choking Ender, she bawls when she’s getting Ender back to space… no where is the cunning or anything else resembling the strong character in the book. She’s even characterized that way in the beginning: Valentine was taken out of the program because she was too emotional.  AHHH! So not a things I want to be teaching kids- that emotions are bad things and we need to be mushing them into submission.

World Book Night, or In Which I Fail at Library* (by Robin)


April 23rd was the second annual World Book Nightcelebration in the United States. Briefly, individuals sign up to receive a box of twenty copies of a single title to hand out to light readers and non-readers that evening. The publishers and authors of the titles available give up their royalties, and special copies are printed for distribution. Ideally, everyone takes his or her box out into the community on the evening of April 23rd and unleashes a flood of reading opportunity.
This was my second year participating. As a middle school librarian, I see the need for individuals to have more access to reading material on a daily basis. I also feel strongly that owning books and having a variety available in the home contributes powerfully to literacy outcomes. World Book Night is an opportunity for me to have a positive impact on a cause I believe in on both a personal and professional level.  
Christie reads Ender’s Game for the 1st time
Last year I signed up for Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Regardless of my opinion of his personal politics, Ender’s Gameis the best science fiction novel I’ve ever read. It is the yardstick by which I measure all the others. Additionally, in my time working with middle schoolers, I’ve found it to be remarkably easy to ‘hand sell.’ I follow a brief summary of the plot with the warning, “But it’s pretty violent, so I wouldn’t read it if that will bother you.” It works every time. And even though it was cold and drizzling on the evening of April 23rd, 2012, I had no problem distributing my copies.
This year, as I read through the list of available titles my eyes landed on two likely candidates – The Lightning Thief and Looking for Alaska. After considering the age groupings of the youth in my neighborhood, I decided to go for Looking for Alaska. I am a huge fan of John Green and love his books. I’ve read all of his books and enjoyed them greatly. I was very excited when I found out I would be getting a box of Looking for Alaska to distribute!

I happily picked up my box for World Book Night at my local distribution center (my local, independent book store), and put the box in the trunk of my car. Over the next couple of days I began to feel uneasy, but couldn’t quite put my finger on the cause. As I began planning how I would distribute the books I remembered. Looking for Alaska is the one John Green book I didn’t finish. I’ve only read half of it. Those of you who have read it will know exactly where I stopped. If you haven’t read it…you should probably stop reading here. Approximately 6 months before I picked up Looking for AlaskaI lost my best friend to cancer. ‘Best friend’ doesn’t really cover it, but I don’t think we have a decent descriptor for what she was to me in our language. More like a sister, really. I never finished the book because I couldn’t see well enough to read through my tears. Each time I picked it up I began sobbing. It was more than I could handle. I put the book back on the shelf, and did a fairly good job of pushing it into the darkest recesses of my memory. Some of you might wonder how I could have so easily forgotten my response to it. My only answer is that grief does really weird things to your brain. There is a lot I can’t remember from the first two years after Shannon died.
Picture from IMGFAVE
April 23rd came and went. I walk by my box of books every morning on my way to work. Eventually I know I will find a library colleague who works with older teens who will be able to make good use of these books. Until then, they are a reminder of the fact that sometimes I fail at library, and I need to learn to forgive myself.
*This odd title comes from a Tweet I can no longer find (I think the author erased it.) When I read it, it struck a chord deep within my librarian’s heart. Sometimes we all feel like we’ve failed at library. You are not alone.

Librarian Confessions: Ender’s Game Reactions

I have a rule that I have followed since the movie version of The Firm came out: never, EVER read the book before the movie if I haven’t already read it. WHY? Because I’m going to be CONSTANTLY comparing the two. If you haven’t read John Grisham’s The Firm, then you won’t be bothered by the huge change in the ending between the book and the movie. And don’t get me started on the major differences between the book and movie version of The First Wives Club. And it’s not just in adult fiction- how many knew someone who was upset by things that were left out of one of the Harry Potter movies? Or Beautiful Creatures

So when I mentioned to both That Guy and Karen that I’ve never read Ender’s Game, by their reactions I knew I was going to have to break my rule. If you didn’t know, Ender’s Game was published in 1985 and written by Orson Scott Card, and won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards. The sequel, Speaker of the Dead, also won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for it’s year, making Card the only author to win both awards back to back. Ender’s Game is being released into theaters this November.

I knew about Card’s viewpoints and opinions before reading Ender’s Game, and knew that there was huge controversy surrounding the book as well (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.), and went into it with an open mind, and my teen viewpoint in place. The version my library has is published in 2002, and it’s been sanitized from the original (found that out later with a little research):

The cover of the copy that I read, that does not have as much of the objectionable material in it

So what was my reaction to it? I read it all in one day, and fell into the world that Card built. I HAD to find out what was going to happen to Ender, and whether he would survive everything that was being stacked against him. (I admit, it may have helped that I had Harrison Ford’s voice in my head as Colonel Graff and Sir Ben Kingsley’s as Mazar Rackham). I was both captured and horrified. It reminded me a lot of current YA dystopias (Hunger Games, Divergent, The Testing) in that the youth were put into horrific and battle situations where the adults were stepping back and watching, and waiting, and placing hopes and expectations on them. There is still a lot of racism and sexism and homophovia within the book, and I can see it being a hard book to discuss within a classroom content. I’ll be extremely interested to see how they take those issues within the movie; Card is a producer on the movie but did not write the script.


What did I take away from it?
(WARNING- MASSIVE SPOLIERS AFTER THE JUMP)


ADULTS SUCK

OMG, do the adults suck in this world. His parents are clueless to what they signed their kids up for, nor do they know to what extent their children are doing. I never caught whether or not the Wiggin family was just superior genetics or they were tinkered with (I lean towards tinkered) but you would think that if the I.F. knew how wrong Peter was, they’d keep an eye on him. None of the teachers step in for the fights at any time, and although as the book goes on Graff becomes more of a friendly figure in the book, everything is completely negated by Ender’s “graduation” and Mazer tricking Ender into destroying the Buggers in the last “simulation”. 


KIDS ARE EXPENDABLE
Kids are completely expendable in the quest for total destruction of the Buggers. They go through Peter and Valentine in their quest for the ultimate commander, and then toss them aside (never mind their obvious extraordinary intelligence and intensely abnormal personality issues). We never know how many possibilities for the leader of the fleet there were before Ender- Mazar never says, just that there were many before but no one reached the final “simulation”. The adults turn all the kids on each other to hone their fighting abilities, and hide the death of one (he “graduated” and was supposedly returned to his town of Spain) in order to reach the goal- total destruction of the Buggers. Nothing else is important- not the mental health of these kids, not what they can do/become afterwards, not whether they’ll be normal- just total destruction of the Buggers.

STAR TREK IS EVERYWHERE
Sometimes things come in circles. Karen and I went and saw Star Trek: Into Darkness, and I was really struck by how in the movie Kirk went from full out vengeance and destruction to capture and return for trial based on discussions with Spock and his own internal struggles. In stead of just blasting away, he chooses what we would call the “human” choice and to bring the villain in for trial.
In Ender’s Game, Ender never GETS that chance to have that discussion and choice until it’s far too late. It’s always after things have happened that he gets the chance to reflect- and wish that things were different, that he could go in a different direction. Every fight is forced, and there is no way that he can back away from anything- to do so would be to seal his fate, or to be iced out and send destruction to the human race. Every time he rebels against something, he ends up “winning” the game anyway, and finding the clues to his next challenge. Ender’s Kobayashi Maru if you will, is discovering that his end rebellion destroyed the entire Bugger race. And like Kirk, he is actually given a second chance at the end of Ender’s Game, if he can take it.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Share in the comments below.