November 4, 2013
I can’t say a word about the movie without first talking about the controversy: Orson Scott Card, author of the novel this movie is based on, is a vicious homophobe, and there’ve been extensive calls to boycott the film, to express opposition to his views and deprive him of income. As someone who once counted Card among my favorite authors, and who avidly read his “how to” book on writing science fiction when I was a wee thing, count me among the heartbroken to learn of his current radical, bigoted stances.
I’m just going to throw some links out. More pixels are burning on this film than just about any other over the last few years. Lots of good reading out there: Cory Doctorow on not boycotting the film; likewise, an editorial from The Advocate; and John Scalzi’s take. Also, plenty of people aren’t seeing the film because rather than loving the book, they find it deeply problematic concerning issues of child abuse and preemptive violence. John Kessel’s famous essay on the problems of Ender’s Game is here.
The vitriol toward Card and his work is proportional to the degree that many of these same boycotters loved Ender’s Game. It’s a book that many people discovered as teenagers, it brought them to science fiction, and it carries such a message of tolerance and peace, that to discover its creator essentially hates them and their loved ones is too much to bear. It’s a betrayal as deep as what Ender feels at the end of the story.
Another link for you: Nick Mamatas, discussing complex political aspects of boycotts. Really, Card is currently making bucketfuls of money on book sales (this is how most writers make the bulk of money from adaptations of their work), and whether he makes money from this particular film is moot because its success or failure will determine his ability to make further deals in the future. The best that can happen from all this is that more people are now aware of his truly lunatic views.
Rather than not see a movie I’ve been looking forward to seeing for a good long while, I’ve made a donation several times greater than what I paid to see it to the True Colors Fund, which helps homeless LBGT teens. I like to think this will do more good in the long run than depriving Card of pennies or attention would. It’s something positive, at least, amidst all the anger.
Why Did I Want to See This?
1) I want to support movies based on high-concept science fiction novels, in the hope of increasing the chances of seeing movies based on oh, let’s say Ringworld, The Stars My Destination, The Left Hand of Darkness, Cyteen, etc. Also, selflishly, I have friends whose books-to-movie/TV projects might hang on whether Ender’s Game succeeds or fails. James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series, for example. I want them to succeed.
2) My well-documented big spaceship fetish. Pretty, pretty spaceships. (It’s an illness, I know.)
I really liked it. Really. It’s been twenty years since I’ve read the book but I remembered enough of it to be impressed at how much the movie covered in not a lot of time, and to spend the third act hoping they wouldn’t frak up the end. There was a moment when I thought they might. (Spoiler: they didn’t.) The story is streamlined, but it’s all there, including Peter and Valentine, and Ender’s thematic journey is well-constructed. I cried at the end, right when I was supposed to. Battle School was stunning, as was Command School. I really liked that Petra was bigger and beefier than Ender, who was so physically unassuming. Nicely done. (I was surprised to find out that Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Petra, is only a year older than Asa Butterfield, who plays Ender. They really are peers.)
But goddamn it, when are these movies going to figure out they don’t need that prolog and voice over, especially if they’re just going to repeat the exact same footage and information ten minutes later (and much more effectively!) in the story?! STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP. IT.
Oh, and One More Thing:
When the book first came out in the mid-1980’s, video game culture was still new, and the book tackles issues that were being raised about the effects of virtual violence, and the distance between the player and the violence the player was inflicting.
I propose that in this era of unmanned drones and evidence of drone pilots suffering PTSD, this aspect of the story is as topical as ever.