Review: Ender’s Game

Perhaps the most important lesson I took away from Kevin MacNeil’s ‘The Art of Adaptation’ course was that in order to take a book and transcribe it to the screen, you have to remember first and foremost: the screen is visual. An author’s intent is to build a picture for the reader, a richly textured world with characters we can see, hear, and (in some cases) read the thoughts of. On the screen, the character is brought to life by facial expressions and dialogue instead of internal monologue. In the text a character frowns, deep in contemplative silence while we, the readers, follow their thoughts. The actor must convey this internal debate physically and through dialogue. So too the director must set the tone using colours, camera angles, and music.

Having said this, we all know that the movie adaptation will never be completely faithful to the story presented within the book. It just can’t happen. Too many subplots or extraneous characters, unnecessary details to a visual audience. That’s just the way it has to be in order to fit 150 pages into 120 minutes.  Take for example the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It is a story about a child becoming a soldier. It is a messianic tale with a massive political and philosophical debate raging at the heart of it, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The story revolves mainly around super-smart children— and I do mean children, Ender Wiggin is six at the time he is chosen to go to Battle School. Once chosen, they are taken to a space station and trained to be soldiers and commanders through the use of technology, strategy, and a certain amount of ruthlessness. It’s Lord of the Flies in space, with the children then going on to fight an actual war.

I loved this book growing up, I still enjoy it in fact. When I heard it was being made into a movie, I groaned and sighed and at the same time was elated. I knew that the basic ideas would translate— childhood ending too soon, the burden of purpose, expectation, war, and isolation. What I also knew was that the battle sequences, already thrilling to read in the book, had the potential to be utterly amazing on the big screen. I was not wrong. Visually, Ender’s Game is stunning. Zero-G training battles, the interactive videogame that Ender plays, and the aliens and their worlds are all beautifully and creatively rendered. That said, the story itself is disappointing. Where the machinations of fearful men were so cleverly written into their speech and actions, in the movie they are blundered through frankly disappointing dialogue and bland acting. Instead of allowing the message to unfold within the action, we are preached at. War is bad, racism is bad, xenophobia is bad, creating child soldiers is bad… The only thing that’s ‘good’ in this movie is the ‘little guy’ facing up to the ‘bad men’.

A major portion of the book’s plot is forged through the series of battles Ender experiences. With the progression of each battle he is forged into the soldier and commander he has to be. I understand the limitations of adaptation, à la Kevin MacNeil, but I don’t understand why the director couldn’t use the battle room scenes to further the plot as well. Come on! Battles! Such a visual medium for character growth! As it stands, the battles, while fun to watch, lacked any deeper meaning besides being a great visual stunt.

I give the director and the actors due credit: I enjoyed this film. As a movie it was engaging and lively. It had great graphics and battles. It had the basic tenants of the plot from the book. Coming out of it, though, I found I could only describe it as preachy, inconsistent, and superficial. As a writer, I can only hope that should I ever score a movie deal, I remember my own advice: divorce the book and the movie. They can never truly be the same.

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Shameless

I am going to be entirely shameless and put up a quote from my portfolio review. I’m really happy about the grade, but more than that, I’m happy about being vindicated in my desire to expand and experiment. Literally— I love experimental fiction and poetry. More so fiction than poetry. Anyways:

“This is an impressive portfolio of work, showing a commendable willingness to engage with prose, poetry and dama as well as a deep interest in formal experimentation.”

Go me. I’m working on plugging a few works into contests and editing a few more to put into even more contests. Because getting out there and being known is great and all, but I need to eat and money helps in that endeavor. THough the Krishna monk outside SOAS feeds me for free (well, £1 actually).

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Bits and Bobs– “After”

Just a snippet, something to jump into later.

“After”

Two choices spread themselves before her, more like wine stains on table linen than roads leading to a destination. Neither had appeal, but choices these days were few and brutal. Kill or be killed. Her smile was bitter as she ducked through a broken doorway. She needed supplies, and the hospital was easier to get in and out of than the school.

Taz had always thought that the whole ‘zombie’ thing was stupid. Shambling about, groaning and grunting, looking for ‘braaaiiinssss’ and whatnot. These days Taz would take zombies over reality, because at least zombies didn’t have life behind their eyes, just liquefying brains and putrid flesh. Or so she assumed, anyways.

She hunkered low underneath an open window, waiting for the rhythmic clomp of soldier’s boots to pass. The old hospital was dangerous because whether or not you were infected, the soldiers would sooner kill you than question you. Less mouths to feed.

Infiltration had always looked so cool in movies. Terrifying, yes, but somehow still… Cool. In reality, not so much. Taz crept along the outer wall, keeping her head under the windows, missing the comfort of automatic pistols. She had run out of ammo weeks back, but the infected were still people, and the threat of a pistol leveled at your head worked for the most part. The sundry knives she had strapped to her person would kill anyone who came close, but the closer to an infected you were when they died, the greater the chance of becoming one of the ‘walking dead’.  She still scoffed at the name, but with so many people succumbing to the disease within hours of contracting it, it was hard to refute that those who were infected were dying where they stood.

It was hard to refute that they were all dying where they stood, in all honesty. The food and medicine she would steal today would just be delaying the inevitable. Sooner or later– probably sooner– they would all be dead anyways. Maybe the whole zombocalypse thing wouldn’t have been so bad, Taz mused. At least then there would be a legitimate ‘us against the world’ sort of vibe. As it stood, Infected people tended to go one of two ways: go a bit nuts and try to infect as many people as possible before succumbing, or lock themselves away and try to work out a cure. It must have been much the same when the Black Plague came around.

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Well, That’s Interesting!

I’m a part of another venture right now as well; a real learning curve for the un-internet-savvy low-tech person I am. However, we’re launching a blog for the Masters program I’m taking part in, the Kingston Writers. Come and see some of the most up-and-coming writers, and read about our (not so) Fast Times at Kingston Uni.

Boldly going where no Blog has gone before.

So chuffed.

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Alright, got to get the hang of this sometime, so now seems as good a time to start as any. I’m trying to get everything connected by holy moly is it hard to keep track when you’re doing a hundred other things a day! No excuse, I know, but we’re working on getting up and running ASAP, around Uni life and social life and writing life, life-life gets harder to hold onto. Still job hunting as well, so there’s a fourth life. Blogging is number five. My, my how does one find time?

We’ll just have to find out!

Ta for now!

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March 24, 2013 · 11:39 pm

Look! A brand new day! Let’s get started.

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March 12, 2013 · 12:02 pm