Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Ender's Game

We saw Ender's Game at the weekend, were not much impressed. Neither of us had read the book by Orson Scott Card - I'd never heard of him, nor of his book. We try not to miss any sci-fi movie doing the rounds though. Rather than straight-ahead sci-fi, it's another in the slew of "young adult" speculative fiction currently enjoying popularity in book and film form. Half an hour in I had it labelled as "Harry Potter in Space". The book, published in 1985, itself adapted from an earlier 1977 short story, came well before Potter arrived on the scene, so perhaps I should say that Harry Potter was Ender Wiggin in Fantasy Land.

There are "messages" and "themes" in the movie (bullying, violence, and how it influences children, empathy, ruthlessness, isolation, manipulation) threaded through a tale of war with a desperate hostile insect-like race with whom humans were incapable of communicating or understanding. After devastating attacks by the alien species, narrowly defeated thanks to a particularly skilled commander, fifty years have passed with no further attacks. However, the world has united under a militaristic power who are preparing plans to prevent any future invasion. Groups of super-skilled children are being cultivated (specially bred?) in the hope of finding a new commander. This film's focus is on the training of an especially gifted child to be that commander.

War, in Ender's Game, is unlike any war we've seen in movies so far - it's total drone war on a massive scale.

Details in the novel missing from the movie, due to time constraints, meant that seeing the film "cold" with no previous information left some odd gaps and incongruities. A lot of time is spent watching Ender play video games; that soon had us both yawning. It seemed like time squandered, when more detail from the book could have been included.

I won't give away the juice of the plot, there are pages and pages of reviews and discussion on the net already. Just a word about performances. The young actors acquitted themselves well enough, I guess. Asa Butterfield carried the movie's weight manfully, but at times was too inscrutable (and inexperienced?) to convey all the stuff I believe the novel had included. The senior crew: Harrison Ford, Sir Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis all seemed rather wooden to me, cardboard cut-outs - oddly so in fact. Why Ben Kingsley, with fully tattooed face, and news that he was descended from Maori warriors, sported a weird South African accent I've yet to discover.

All in all I found Ender's Game to be rather peculiar, a bit like a phone call when the sound is breaking up, catching the odd word and inflection here and there but never quite getting the intended message.

Something worth mentioning here is the threatened boycott of the movie by various gay groups, due to the book's author's homophobic rants and views on gay marriage. I didn't see any sign of homophobia in the story as presented, nor in any reports of the novel's content, or the sequels which followed. I sympathise with views of gays on this, but also have to realise that many, many great authors, painters, singers, musicians, composers have, in their time, espoused views which are very different from my own. It can be hard to do, but unless we try to differentiate the person from their work, whatever it be, we shall miss a lot that is worthwhile. In a strange way, too, kind of in reverse, this reminds me of the questions raised by comments in the weekend's post regarding Russell Brand - his on stage persona compared to his political views.


mike said...

Well, Twilight, you recently posted on the power of words. Some people don't know when it might be best to keep their words to themselves or amongst close associates. There is celebrity status acquired with the like-minded when individuals like Ted Cruz, Russell Brand. or Anne Coulter inadvertently show their fangs. Some people can't get past the insults to see anything good from these individuals. Such it is with Orson Scott Card:

"From 2009 to 2013 he was a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, lending his support to a group tied directly to Prop 8 in California and other anti-equality activism across the country and around the world. In 2008 he swore, '[r]egardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down.'" - See more at: http://skipendersgame.com/#sthash.DnQY2qmd.dpuf

Some individuals have earned high marks on my Offendometer and I simply can't get past their remarks or actions to bear witness to their good side, which I'm sure is there somewhere. I have very strong opinions (LOL), but when it comes to my actions, I try my best to put them into something fair to everyone (food bank donations, clean-up neighborhoods or the beach, elder care, etc.). I try not to find an isolated group to slay.

I guess the author-producer of "Ender's Game" is busy right now devising his anarchist scheme to bring-down our government. Maybe he's pals with Ted Cruz, et al.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - Another quote of his:

"Card argued that homosexuality itself should be a crime. He wrote, 'Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books," and that while not every gay person should be incarcerated, the law must "be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society's regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society." His goal, he wrote, was to use the law to discourage people from being gay and drive openly gay people underground and out of view. "The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly...'"


Twilight said...

mike ~ Orson Scott Card is quite obviously a very nasty piece of work.

It's more difficult to try to see past his disgusting rants to his literary efforts when he's still around, still being horrendously offensive. I do get that.

Figures from the past, who have held obnoxious views of one sort or another, have the cover of history, and the excuse that "they lived in a different time", and are, thankfully, no longer around to carry on airing their offensive views. We often find it easier to give them credit for the things they did well.

The star of my favourite movie "Ben Hur", springs to mind - Charlton Heston and his NRA and "cold dead hand" remarks; Frank Sinatra's personal failings (my all time favourite vocalist) are two artists I've had to look past the person and to their work, even when they still were alive.
But neither, even at their worst, was quite as obnoxious as Mr. Card.

I was curious to see the movie though. My curiosity is satisfied, I shall avoid his stuff, written or on screen in future.