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So I’ve seen a few Ender’s Game movie reviews that were less than thrilled. Overall, I think most of them came down to – “It’s not as good as the book, it doesn’t have … and it’s too rushed.” Uh, yeah. So my friends, read. Seriously, these just seem like a good argument that reading a book gives a richer experience than watching a movie based on a book.

Ender's Game

Books are so much better (argued here). They have much more range, can reveal inner thought and allow time for ideas, people and relationships to develop. So for all those critics – I concur. The book is better than the movie. Ender’s Game Alive, an audio play, is better than both because it has the best qualities of both (about which more here). Make no mistake, the book is better than the movies for which it provides a basis for 95% of all movies, so this isn’t a specific criticism of Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game is a really good movie. 8.5 out 10. It’s a bit too short, there were two glaring errors, but overall all, very well done with some surprisingly great choices.

So, let me hit my pet peeves first.

–  Peter Wiggin comes off as a big bully, not a psychopathic genius. It would not have taken much more time or halted the narrative to tweak that small bit in the room a little bit. Have the character give a sly smile and sly walk in a circle around the room as his inner range becomes more palpable and he gets quieter. Make the “I could kill you” creepy, not just mean. Actually, the parents didn’t come off quite as brilliant as they ought and the Dad’s character diminished considerably from the book.

Bonzo must be taller and bigger than Ender. Asa Butterfield is a brilliant Ender, well casted although he is older and taller than the Ender character in the book. I get that and the fact that Mr. Butterfield is tall. Bonzo is more built, but he just didn’t have the physical stature. Get someone taller than Ender and built.

Give the sense of more time at Battle School. This is a good point from my son Logan: use a memory montage or something to provide that sense. Clearly they couldn’t have all the battles, but part of the rushed feel is how quickly the battleroom sequence was. There was no opportunity to show how different Ender was than everyone else, how he built up his team or how brilliant they were. Maybe one more battle that showed how they could work as independent units (suggestion of my 14 year son, Guy) would have helped. Maybe 15 minutes to 1/2 an hour more with some time elapse mechanism and a bit more build time would have reduce the rushed feeling.

Finally, while I get we couldn’t do the whole Locke/Demosthenes thing, it would have been a nice touch if they worked in a way for Valentine to go off with Ender for the new world for the Formics.

Enders Game War

So what were some of those surprisingly good parts?

The choice points for collapsing the story of the book were spot-on, just to highlight a few:
The move to command based on killing the giant; the relationship between Bean and Petra (and Alai) were short-hand for his relationships. Letting Ender know that they were going to the home world skipped a lot of explanation.

The Battle School and the final battle were visually brilliant. The round, clear room was perfect. One son said it would be too distracting to see out. That’s the point, it should be distracting. How do you handle distractions. The drones, the ships and the Formic fleet were great.

Mazer Rackham was a much better role and played better than I anticipated.. Yes, Sir Ben Kingsley was in the role; nonetheless, both the role and his contribution to it exceeded my expectations. It almost makes up for Peter.

Well done. It was an enjoyable movie – it provided a visually and sonically appealing summarization of the book. That’s what movies do best.