The Ender series by Orson Scott Card is commonly considered one of the greatest achievements of science fiction writing. The books are awesome. I’ve read all of the main series, and what is so impressive is that they are all as good as each other, and often in different ways. That said the first is still an all-time classic and, along with Only Forward and Snowcrash, one of the sci fi books that I most wanted to see become a film.
It’s a pretty good adaptation. It’d be impossible for someone that enjoyed the books as much as I did to ever really love the film, and the danger is that so many people probably feel the same way. But my only real complaint was that I wanted more… For me, the film could have been an hour or so longer; filled with more battles, more Machiavellian scheming and just a whole lot more everything. Ender’s Game felt rushed, but I am unable to decide whether that is my own person judgement because I wanted more, or if it is a more objective (yet obviously still subjective) flaw.
That said the filmmakers did a phenomenal job bringing the story to life, and although a whole number of things weren’t as I’d imagined, aside from the average casting of Peter, Valentine (not enough family resemblance), Mazer Rackham (who I had always imagined as a futuristic version of Red Rackham of Tin Tin fame) and Bean (altogether to cool and not nearly runty or weedy enough), the rest of the cast were extremely well chosen. Just like with the Harry Potter films, not only will I be forever hard-pressed to imagine the characters without thinking now of the actors, but I won’t have even the slightest regret about it. Asa Butterfield (as Ender), Hailee Steinfeld (as Petra) and especially the basically unknown Moises Arias (as the relatively minor character Bonzo) are all so good in their roles that I was a little angry at my brain for not having imagined the characters as looking exactly like those actors.
Oh right, the plot…
About 50 years ago, the ‘Buggers’ (which the film replaced with the much less clever ‘Formics’ – as if after 50 years the population of Earth wouldn’t have completely slanged the term for giant alien ant/ bug-type invader) attacked the Earth and looked to completely overpower us until Mazer Rackham, pilot extraordinaire somehow managed to defeat their entire armada. Cut to now and Ender Wiggin, youngest of three brilliant children, is recruited to the International Fleet and sent into space to train to become a commander if and when the aliens return. Ender is a brilliant, calculating and sensitive lad, who excels in strategy regardless of the arena. He faces an increasingly difficult series of tests as part of his training, including zero-G simulated warfare and various computer game-type battles.
Ender’s Game is pretty good, or not. But either way the books are so damn seminal, that really isn’t worth watching the film until you have read the novels, at which point your ability (just like mine) to appreciate the film in any terms other than as an adaptation will be shot.