When I was living at home for a brief period after law school, I started putting out these newsletters. It was a good project and it gave something positive to think about. In my newsletters I included movie reviews. And since I am already using my blog as a platform for proselytizing at my leisure — why not?
I love movies, I love books. I love movies made from books. But I’ll be honest, I also have a vivid imagination and a critical eye. All of that is balanced out by the fact that I love to escape into the movies so I have no issues suspending disbelief.
First up, Ender’s Game. For the record, I read the book years ago and then re-read it last weekend. In fact, if a movie is based on a book, I have almost always read the book first.
Before we go too deep, this is blurb from IMDB.com: The International Military seek out a leader who can save the human race from an alien attack. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant young mind, is recruited and trained to lead his fellow soldiers into a battle that will determine the future of Earth.
And while that is true (she says skeptically), the book, at least, is SIGNIFICANTLY more nuanced complicated and thought provoking. Am I the only one who is tired of Hollywood taking books and making them into movies that are weird shells of the books? I mean did anyone see Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (the answer is no, based on the box office numbers)? That was a classic example of taking a great story and just missing the boat when it came to making the movie. I will probably write a review of that when I need to get some venting energy done.
This is of course where I am heading with Ender’s Game. The worst part is that the cast is awesome. You have the two major female leads played by two of the most talented young actresses (Hailee Steinfield and Abigail Breslin) you can find. And they do a remarkable job.
The young man who plays Ender, Asa Butterfield, does a great job. Frankly the casting is epic — Harrison Ford plays the most difficult role of teacher/tormentor/mastermind. And he really does a stand up job.
I suppose my only complaint about casting is that Ender’s brother had about five seconds of screen time and the actor who played him was a little flat. That isn’t completely the actor’s fault, I blame the screenplay, which gave the one person who motivates the majority of Ender’s actions, decisions, and insecurities about five seconds of screen time. Interesting choice! (Employing sarcasm there.)
The story is solid, the cast solid, what remains is the director and the screenwriter. Incidentally in this case, the director and the screenwriter are one in the same. I feel bad about unleashing so much hater-ade on him but it’s really the crux of the problem with the movie. I know why he did it. He cut out all of the truly uncomfortable moments in the book. He cut out the plot lines where the hero’s psychopathic brother finds purpose and ultimately uses his power to take over the planet in his late teens. That’s gone. The problem is that like anything worth doing, the hard parts MAKE the best parts. The hero’s journey falls flat without the heartbreak, the agony, the cruelty, and the darkness that he survives in the book. The second story line with his siblings, which is GONE from the movie, balances the story and makes it not just another freaking movie about killing aliens.
The intelligence, the heart, the vulnerability — those qualities which challenged and pained the reader are gone for the viewer of the film. What remains? A shell of a movie as empty as the alien outpost they confiscate.