Anybody who dares to call themselves a fan of science-fiction knows the story of Ender’s Game by heart. The story of Ender Wiggin’s rise through Battle School and eventual confrontation with the Buggers is one of the genre’s most beloved stories, and for good reason. Orson Scott Card became a household name after the first novel of many in the series, going on to add at least a dozen more tales to the timeline. Ender’s lifetime has been chronicled endlessly, as have the stories that surround his legacy and siblings, compassionate Valentine and savage yet intelligent Peter.
Despite the success of the initial novel, though, Ender’s Game is just now receiving a film treatment, almost thirty years after being published. Card himself has called the book “unfilmable,” although it seems he’s taken a different stance since he’s so involved with this version. His desire for artistic control will hopefully keep the film on the path that the book takes, but Card may also see it fit to make a few tweaks here and there.
Needless to say, if this interpretation is even half as good as the novel is, then fans will be more than satisfied. If you don’t feel like reading the novel, however, fellow writer Isaac Feldberg and I have got you covered, giving you a quick run down of what to look forward to when the film is finally released.
Here are a few reasons you should get excited for the big screen debut of Ender’s Game.
WARNING: Some spoilers aheadNext
Sir Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham
Have you seen that crazy Maori face tattoo? Seriously, Kingsley has transformed himself for the part of the head of Command School, Mazer Rackham. A decorated war veteran who tests Ender’s ability to lead even more than Graff, Rackham is one of the novel’s most interesting characters.
With an incredible actor like Kingsley playing him, I’m confident that Rackham will be one of the best parts of the upcoming film. Though Kingsley’s take on the character is decidedly different from how Rackham is portrayed in Orson Scott Card’s novel, I trust the actor to turn in an excellent performance marked by his trademark sincerity and deep emotional gravitas.
What’s more, a character so deeply rooted in science fiction is an exciting new direction for the veteran character actor, who is best known for his lead roles in Gandhi and Schindler’s List. We might as well proclaim 2013 as the Year of Kingsley, after his unique, hilarious take on the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, his excellent lead role in thriller A Common Man, and now Ender’s Game. I could seriously see Kingsley being a contender for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Academy Awards if he pulls off this performance.Previous Next
A Brutal Look At Battle School
The most shocking element from the novel is the violence displayed by children as young as six, especially by Ender. As much as he fears and tries to avoid Peter’s aggressive influence, Ender inevitably resorts to violence when it is necessary to make a lasting point. In more than one instance, his self-defense leads to the death of another child.
Even though the ages of the main cast have bumped up to teenagers, the violence between students will still be a central aspect of the film. Ender’s decisions are made with long-term goals in mind. If someone will potentially bully him more in the future, Ender seeks to win the war, not just the battle. Recently, The Hunger Games explored this level of violence among children, so hopefully Ender’s Game can handle the material as well.
The officers in command of the Battle School always make sure to keep Ender on his toes, pushing him further than any child, let alone grown man, should be pushed. Their manipulation and deception is all done for the sake of the war, but Ender doesn’t know that. Cruelty towards children is a bit of a taboo subject in cinema, but Ender’s Game makes it a crucial aspect of Ender’s development.Previous Next
Harrison Ford as Colonel Hyrum Graff
As soon as I heard that sci-fi icon Harrison Ford had been cast as Colonel Graff, the cunning colonel in charge of Battle School, I started to flip through Ender’s Game again, puzzled because the actor was so different from my prior mental depiction of the character. Now, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.
Throughout Ender’s Game, Graff ruthlessly manipulates Ender, separating him from his classmates, and prioritizing his training above even the lives of other students, in a carefully constructed plan to make the boy a perfect commander to lead the human forces against the buggers. However, Orson Scott Card doesn’t paint Graff as a monster; instead, the colonel repeatedly shows affection for Ender as he would his own son, though Ender always sees him as an opponent.
The more I consider it, the more excited I am about Ford taking on the role. He definitely has the gruff professionalism down pat, as demonstrated by the film’s trailers, and if he puts his best foot forward with the part, I am fully convinced that this is a role Ford can absolutely nail. Think of it as practice for his role as an older Han Solo in the new Star Wars films.Previous Next
Ender’s Jeesh Comes To Life
Even if they only serve as support, Ender’s jeesh (or army) is exactly the group he needs to win the war against the Buggers. Much of Ender’s Game is spent bouncing between various armies before Ender is finally given his own under his command, and the kids who follow him are some of the most intriguing in Battle School.
Fan favorites like Bean and Petra, who also go on to have large roles in later books in the series, are finally being brought to the big screen. Depending on how far studios are looking to take the series, they’ve already laid the foundation for later installments by including important members of Ender’s army. Whether supporting characters with smaller roles will be included (such as Hot Soup or Crazy Tom) is yet to be seen.
Each of these characters are full of personality, and seeing the final battle take place without them would feel weird. It’s not a deal breaker, obviously, but a little fan service never hurt anybody. At least the characters who have already been cast will be played by actors and actresses who have established themselves as more than capable, meaning we can also look forward to…Previous Next
A cast of young, talented up-and-comers, led by the sublime Asa Butterfield
Though some hardcore fans were likely irked that the film adaptation upped Ender’s age from six to closer to sixteen, I’m of the opinion that it was a great move, mostly because it allowed the terrific Asa Butterfield to secure the role.
Butterfield, who previously starred in Holocaust tragedy The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Martin Scorese’s ode to classic cinema Hugo, has shown off a tremendous capacity for emotional pathos throughout his still-blossoming career. I fully believe he is capable of doing justice to the moral and emotional complexities of Ender Wiggin, and I’m convinced that Ender’s Game will mark the young actor’s finest performance yet.
I am equally excited to see what Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld can do in the meaty role of Ender’s sympathetic peer at the Battle School, Petra Arkanian, Steinfeld has already proven her ability to play a strong-willed protagonist in True Grit, so it should be a real thrill to watch the rapport between her character and Ender.
Finally, Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin, in the role of Ender’s sister Valentine, will likely bring some emotional gravitas to her supporting role. Though it is still unclear how heavily the film will feature Valentine’s political commentator alter ego Demosthenes, it’s safe to say that the well-respected young actress is a valuable asset to the film whom director Gavin Hood will likely utilize as much as possible.
There are several unknown quantities in Ender’s Game, including Jimmy Pinchak as Peter Wiggin, Aramis Knight as Ender’s ally Bean, and Moises Arias as his enemy Bonzo, but the film has been in development for so long that I highly doubt any severe casting mistakes would be allowed to stand.Previous Next
Valentine and Peter Take Over The World
Although it doesn’t seem that interesting, the side plot involving Ender’s siblings, Valentine and Peter, taking over the world’s politics one internet forum at a time is one of the more important events to the series as a whole. In fact, almost everything after the Third Invasion hinges on the political prowess of Peter.
With that being said, there wouldn’t be much material to translate to film, as Card himself pointed out, “that’s just watching people type things into the computer.” Although it’s definitely not as interesting as Battle School, movies like Phone Booth and Buried have made the best of a bare situation. Maybe they can type in slow motion, or during a gunfight? Work your magic, Card!
The kids’ alter egos, Locke and Demosthenes, are used to shape the political future of Earth, and much of the series’ future depends on this development, especially when dealing with Peter. Although he serves as a foil for Ender, he becomes an extremely important character soon after the Third Invasion.
Again, this all rests on the guess that the series will be taken even further in film. Card himself said when he was initially working on the screenplay that he would take this part out completely, so whether it will remain an integral plot point or not won’t be clear until Ender’s Game hits theaters.Previous Next
The Glorious Ending
Say what you will about Ender’s Game as a whole, because even the most ardent fans know it’s not perfect, but the ending could not be anymore perfect. I obviously don’t want to spoil anything here, but just know that the climax of the Third Invasion is a pivotal moment for Ender, the universe and mankind in general. A lot of the elements that recur throughout Ender’s Game, like the simulated game students play on their desks or Ender’s dreams or the mystery of the Buggers, come to head in the final moments of the story, and they pack a definite punch.
Again speaking of his initial screenplay (which has thankfully been scrapped), Card stated that he wished to make the surprise ending clear to the viewers so that they could root for Ender. Personally, I think it would be foolish for anybody involved to change anything about the finale, especially because of how well it plays into everything the novel attempts to explore about humanity, war and friendship.
The climax is almost more important than the rest of the story, meaning it can make or break the film version depending on how it goes. Card has had years and years to ponder how he wants the film to work on screen (even considering Rosie O’Donnell for the role of Graff), but if he’s half as smart as he appears, he’ll leave the ending just as it was written all those years ago.
So whether you’ve read Ender’s Game obsessively since middle school or couldn’t care less about the novel, these are more than a few reasons to get excited for the film adaptation to finally hit theaters on November 1. What are you most excited for in this version? Do you have confidence in the cast? Can they get this adaptation right after almost thirty years of waiting? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to check out Ender’s Game on November 1.
Please note that this article was a collaboration between Isaac Feldberg and Christian Law.Previous