Movie review: “Ender’s Game” makes case for book staying on the page

By
From the October 31, 2013 edition

I’ll admit, I probably ought to read more books — especially since seemingly every movie Hollywood chooses to greenlight is based on one. I say this because I haven’t read Orson Scott Card’s much-loved sci-fi novel “Ender’s Game.”

But here’s the thing: I’m not a book critic. I’m a movie critic. I judge what’s on the screen, not what’s in the imaginations of those who read the book it’s based upon.

So you may consider me less qualified to judge the adaptation. But, I shoot back, more qualified to judge the film on its own.

For the fully uninitiated, “Ender’s Game” is a futuristic tale of a young boy named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) who is being groomed by a military colonel (Harrison Ford) to defeat an alien race.

If there was a book I loved, I would prefer to not trust its screen adaptation to the man behind “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Still, Gavin Hood seems devoted to the material, even if to a fault.

If I rant against this, it’s because characters and subplots that may be fully formed in the minds of readers are tough to handle in the confines of a two-hour movie, even for a more seasoned filmmaker than Hood. I found this to be the case with much of “Ender’s Game,” which came off showy, convoluted and too busy to me.

But here’s the counterpoint: The friend accompanying me who had read the book had a much better (if still imperfect) experience, probably because she fleshed in the gaps the movie creates.

Let’s just make this compromise, shall we? Let’s have more original movies and original books. “Star Wars” wouldn’t even get made today, and the “Ender’s Game” that exists in the imaginations of its readers has to be better than this movie.