The very first thing out of my mouth as the end credits started to roll was, ” it was too short, and I want to see the director’s cut.”
I have been a big fan of the book and the companion books (both the Ender’s Game series and the Shadow series) for many years now (thanks to my brother for the initial introduction), but could never think of a practical way to turn the book into a movie (which is why I didn’t write the screenplay).
So while I love the book(s) and am quite fond of the characters and their story, I also understand the constraints (So. Many. Constraints.) of adapting a beloved novel for the big screen. I spent over five years working in the entertainment industry and I know full well just how many different parts have to work together just to produce a lame duck sitcom, so I can only imagine the enormous job director Gavin Hood must have had with this film. I can’t really think of a better way to adapt the 384-page novel than what he did.
And on the whole, I think he pulled it off.
The film is just under two hours long, and as I mentioned earlier, it felt rushed. I wonder if it would’ve worked better as a miniseries (think: the Battlestar Galactica miniseries in 2004), as there’s certainly a lot of character development and battle school stories that are pretty key to the story. But then I’d worry about greedy television executives wanting to try to make a basic cable show out of it and that would really make a mess of things. So if I had to choose one format, I’d stick with a feature film, but I’d add a few more battle school scenes (the battle room scenes are AWESOME and I’d have loved to see more) and a little more character development with Ender.
The casting was very well done, and for once Harrison Ford didn’t phone in his performance. Viola Davis I’m sure is a great actress, but this part really didn’t have much going on and I think really anyone could have played this part. Both of these characters would have benefitted from a little bit more development.
My brother and I have discussed at length how if Ender’s Game were ever to be a live-action movie that they’d have to change the age of the children. There’s just no way to get a dozen good child actors under the age of 10. Once upon a time Haley Joel Osment would’ve been a great Ender at age 8 or so, but he grew up (as children do, despite what Peter Pan wishes) and that’d really be the problem with casting any child actor – by the time the talent is discovered, as movies often are released months if not years after filming, the child has grown up and is no longer the precocious young boy who sees dead people.
The movie’s production was great. I saw the film on a standard screen at the AMC Promenade in Temecula, CA, and it was easy to see the fantastic special effects, production design, costumes, etc. I was surprised, too, at how good the battle room scenes were. I was expecting the scenes to look heavily CGI, but the folks over at Digital Domain really aced it (read more about their process here). I’m going to see the film again tomorrow on an IMAX screen, so I’ll be sure to add an update with my thoughts on the difference in formats.
And the ending, well, I thought it was quite beautiful. Like my friend Lindsay said on Facebook (check out her blog if you want to learn stuff and be smarter), I was surprised at the level of depth it managed with the central moral question of the story (details withheld to avoid spoilers if you haven’t read the book or seen the film yet). It’s that moral question and Ender’s answer that drives the story and the rest of the books in the series, and it is what continues to draw me to Ender years after we first met.
Final grade? I give it a solid B. It could have been better, especially with Alfonso Cuarón at the helm, but it is pretty good and I give props to Hood for pulling it all together.