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On Ender's Game: "A Compelling Science Fiction Tale Like No Other"

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This review originally appeared on Quora.
By Ken Miyamoto, Produced screenwriter, former Sony Pictures script reader/story analyst, former Sony Studios liaison

First and foremost, I have to start by saying that I'm not a fan of assigning stars to rate a movie. People put way too much weight on that.

You'll see that I have five stars here for Ender's Game. Does it compare to 2001: A Space Odyssey? Of course not. 

I basically use the star system to rank my reaction to the film itself. The emotions I feel while walking out of that theater and even after allowing myself to slowly fall back to the earth from the clouds.   

Cinema is entertainment. Did the movie entertain me a little (three stars maybe), a lot (four stars), or immensely (five stars)? After that, I'll let my words explain what I thought about other aspects of it. 

Know that I was going into Ender's Game with very low expectations because the trailers made it look like a horrible money grab of a movie, doing nothing but throwing space battle sequences at audiences and showing little to virtually no key moments with Ender himself beyond him directing an armada of space battle ships.  

But now, having seen the film at the very first Imax showing this morning, I must say...

The trailers did this film NO justice.

Ender's Game is one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. 

And now, Ender's Game is one of the best science fiction films I've seen in a long time.   

The truth of the matter is, Ender's Game the novel, as written by Orson Scott Card (We'll get to that elephant in the room soon), is basically a story that you can't produce and translate into film. Just by the unique way it is written through Ender's perspective. 

So what Gavin Hood (Director and Writer) has done here is offer us the next best thing. 

He's created a Youth Adult angle, ala Harry Potter or more specifically, The Hunger Games. And in my opinion, Ender's Game is much better than The Hunger Games in that respect.

Most people may scoff at that, but it's true in my eyes.

It was a brilliant decision on Hood's part to translate the material like that. And what is even better is that we're not force fed some youth love story like most other YA novels and their adaptations. Ender and his peers are training for war. We're given a strong female lead that partners with our hero, but beyond the holding of hands briefly before a training session, they are there to help each other. That's it.  

Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld are excellent. Butterfield's Ender is, well, pretty badass. As Ender should be. 

The supporting cast, with a couple exceptions (some of the kids are subpar... no different than The Hunger Games or Harry Potter), are great as well. Harrison Ford redeemed himself in my eyes this year with his role here and in this year's 42. Viola Davis is amazing. Ben Kingsley is excellent, albeit a little underutilized. 

The special effects and overall production design are AMAZING. It was a thrill to see the Battle School come to life after all of these years. As a big fan of the book, it was just a dream come true to see those set pieces.

I can't pick apart the major differences between the book and the film. It's been awhile since I've read it. I know the broad strokes of the book, and they are all there in the film. And even if I had read the book again, right before seeing the film, I still wouldn't pick the differences apart because that goes against the term of ADAPTING. 

The story has to adapt to a visual medium. 

The characters have to adapt to a visual medium, which means that only the actions and reactions are going to tell the story and the character arcs for us... not words and detailed inner thoughts.

And yes, the action and fight sequences have to adapt to a visual medium.

They were adapted as best as I could have imagined.

As I watched the film, something was still keeping me slightly at bay. I couldn't put my finger on it. The lead actors were great. The special effects were amazing. The pacing and editing was excellent. The music exceeded my expectations with an overpowering (in the best of ways) score. What was it? 

I figured it out. Half way through the movie, I was feeling anxiety. But because of what? 

Because of what I knew was coming. The ending. 

Now, if you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about. It's one of the most amazing endings I've ever read in a book. It made me want to be a writer at a very early age. 

And if you've seen the film, then you also know what I'm talking about. 

I thought that they were simply going to give us the Hollywood ending. Or perhaps take that edge of the book out by changing things up to "attempt" to "increase" the stakes, or some other BS studio note. 

Well, know that they delivered a true interpretation of the ending in the book. And if anything, they enhanced it in the best of ways. 

If you haven't seen the film now or read the book yet, don't read any reviews. Just go watch it as soon as possible.     

I loved this film. I really did. It's a different type of science fiction. There's a brutality to it, despite the presence of young trainees. 

A mistake that could have been made would be to shift the story focus to Harrison Ford's character. They didn't thankfully.

And they really do set this up as a possible franchise in the end, and I am hopeful that the film is a success because I'd love to see more. 

If I had one single gripe, I'd say that I'm not sure why it wasn't offered in 3D. This flick would have been an amazing 3D experience. 

There's not much more to say. I can't agree with some of the negative things being said about the film here. Film is subjective thankfully, so none of us are wrong. What I dislike most about movie reviews is that those reading them forget that. They forget that in the end, it's just one opinion. 

So please, just go see Ender's Game. You may hate it, love it, or be indifferent. But just go see it and don't let me or anyone else here on Quora, or especially any critic, or even your trusted friends and family, make that choice for you. That's cinema. The gamble. Go roll the dice.   

Lastly, the elephant in the room.

Orson Scott Card. 

There has been a movement to boycott this film due to his stance of Gay Rights and many other issues.

To that, I shake my head and say... 

Hate the man, not the story. Because this story is one of the greatest ever told in the science fiction genre. 

Or, better yet, don't hate the man, because life is too short and precious to question a person's beliefs. Beliefs that you will not change. No different than how he won't be able to change yours. That's life. 

Ender's Game is a compelling science fiction tale like no other. More questions on Ender's Game (2013 movie):