Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ender Succeeds, in Multiple Ways

I went to see Ender's Game today, and it was one of those movies that did make me feel the same way as I did when reading the book. I was absorbed while watching, and I couldn't get the ending out of my mind all day. Just like with the book. (Click here to read my thoughts on the book after reading it for the first time this summer.)

Now, I didn't even know there was a controversy going on; I just went to watch a movie. So that's all I'm addressing here. You know, I find myself feeling similar to how I did after watching The Host earlier this year (click for Parts 1 and 2 of my thoughts on that movie). It's gladness for enjoying the adaptation as a whole, but also contentment with my reaction to what is in the story.

Ender's Game, to me, is heartbreaking. It's the story of someone who so desperately wants peace but so easily can commit violence. I suppose, on different symbolic levels, we can all be that way: we want to do right, but there is just so much going on in the world to react to. War and conflict, representing the exterior and the interior, will always exist.

As soon as I read the book, I knew Asa Butterfield as the perfect casting choice for Ender. He has that ability to transmit both innocence and power through his face--even just through his eyes. One of the things that makes this book so good is the way that it shows Ender's thoughts; with a movie, you can't show thoughts in the same way. But with a tad of voiceover and close-ups of Ender's very expressive-yet-also-unwavering eyes, we could still follow along and understand what he was feeling at different points. Granted, I know that not everyone read the book; I went to see the movie with someone who hadn't. I think there must be more gaps or less emotional weight if the movie is your first introduction to the story. But I kind of like the idea of the book and movie coming as a pair: sometimes it was hard to visualize things in the book, so the movie helped with that. And if it's hard to understand the emotional or symbolic weight of everything in the movie, the book helps with that.

A word on those visuals. They looked great, and it wouldn't really have been worth it to make this movie if the studio hadn't invested enough to make everything look right. If I had no familiarity with the story, maybe I would have thought it was just about effects. But I'm not sure. The effects, whether in the battle simulations or the mind game, are all about what is going on with this one character.

One of the odd points is one that we all knew was coming. The book presents us with Ender at six years old, allowing him to grow up across the pages. That's hard to do in a movie without getting bogged down by all those years or having an unconvincing combination of actors playing one character. So while I definitely missed seeing Ender so young in the beginning and even wished we could have seen him a little older at the end, I think they did the best they could with making the smaller timeframe work. And, as I said, Asa Butterfield was perfect in the role. If I'm repeating myself, it's because Ender is the most important thing about this story: if he's right, then everything else sort of follows along. Oh, Ender, you still make me want to cry--and get up and live my life with awareness and intention.

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