Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ender's Game (a film review)

I am one of the millions of fans of the Orson Scott Card book, Ender's Game, and it was with a sense of dread that I learned a film was being made from this book.  Having read it more than once, each time with slow relish, I couldn't imagine how such a rich story could be shrunk into a short film.  The trailer also gave me pause--it seemed to be emphasizing all the wrong things.

But at Mark's urging, we saw it today anyway.  And I was very pleasantly surprised.   The cast includes Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley, and they both do a good job of their roles.  But every actor did well, and the screenplay was balanced.  It managed to bring out most of the important issues explored by the book.  There was enough dialog interspersed with action, and miraculously, none of the action sequences or special effects seemed superfluous.  I would even call it a lean, spare and elegant selection of scenes. 

With a surprising deftness, the major philosophical issues which have endeared the novel to so many fans were expressed in the dialog, cleanly and as briefly as possible.  The film does not insult our intelligence by explaining everything verbally.   It shows us.  How rare and wonderful!  I am at a loss to understand the mediocre ratings others are giving this film.

During the biggest battle scenario, I found myself holding my breath.  The special effects were perfect for it, with no extra flash than needed to tell the story.   It was really quite well done, and even though I knew in advance all the plot twists, I was totally engrossed.   So I give it 8 or 9 stars out of ten.  It cannot get ten only because no 2-hour film could not possibly do justice to the novel.  However, the film's makers made good trade-offs.  There were two things I noticed deviating from the book: first, Ender's progress through training necessarily had to go faster than it did in the book.  And second, to make it go faster, some incidents of Ender testing his limits against the supervising adults was necessarily omitted.  But neither of these affected the overall balance of the story.

If you have somehow never read the book, I suggest going to see the film without talking to anyone about it.  There is a major spoiler in the story's ending--a couple of them, in fact--and good as it was already knowing the plot twists, I think it would be even better not to know them when seeing this film.

Go see it!  And enjoy.