Monday, November 4, 2013

REVIEW: "Ender's Game"

Great movie. Brutal, hard-hitting. The space seems familiar: children in an orbiting military school training for war against insectoid aliens (aka the Formics). One child, Ender, is the prodigal badass. Yeah, familiar, but only on the surface. This isn't Hogwarts in Space, or Zero-G Hunger Games. This is an adaptation of Orson Scott Card's novel, which breathed new life into a seemingly played-out sci-fi trope. (Namely, the war-game-is-a-real-war trope.) Impossibly, Card took it to a new place. The movie does, too. But only if you haven't read the book. (If you haven't, be warned. Spoilers await. )

The war is the point, but it's not. The movie's focus is the day-to-day dynamics of early adolescent bullying on the one hand, and supportive knots of friendship (a la Stephen King's It), on the other. The movie depicts childhood's complex pecking order -- and does an equally good job depicting the practical dynamics of an environment in space. The Battle Room of the book is hard to visualize; the makers of this film visualized it; good show. High marks also for their depiction of military strategy in space. They thought the logic through -- and stayed consistent with the book's original logic.

The movie, like the book, is ultimately anti-war. It hinges on that classic Star Trek trope: the alien attack is based on a misunderstanding.The Horta isn't evil, it's a mom, and we've been killing its silicon eggs! In Star Trek, humans and aliens kiss and make up. In Ender's Game, we wipe out their world. Ender's left with the sin of genocide (or xenocide) on his soul. Ender destroys the aliens, utterly, but nobody cheers.

It's a downer ending, with a shred of hope. The audience of intelligent sci-fans cheers anyway. For once, their intelligence hasn't been insulted.

Hooray. But wait ...

Some of you ain't cheering. Ah, you're the fans of the book, right? Right. I'll get back with you later ...


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