Yesterday, the Internet orgasmed with the release of the first trailer for the screen adaptation of Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card’s sci-fi classic about a boy who murders things. Here’s the trailer:
I’m so glad they used the Inception horn blast. I was scared for a minute that there would be one sci-fi blockbuster that didn’t use the Inception horn blast.
As some of you who follow me on Twitter know, I recently read Ender’s Game. To borrow from the late, great Roger Ebert, I hated, hated, hated, hated this book (though I still gave it two stars, probably because it was a quick read or because I’m too nice). Here’s the review I posted on GoodReads. There aren’t any huge spoilers but if you’re weird about that you may want to skip:
Once upon a time, there was a tiny 6-year old boy who all the other kids picked on. Little did they know that he was very special and all the adults secretly loved him even though they didn’t stop anyone from picking on him, and also he knew karate and he didn’t want to hurt them but he would if he had to, and it just so happens that he has to. Often. Also he spoke and thought not like a 6-year old boy but as a smug 30-year old man with a fair amount of unresolved bitterness toward his childhood.
I finished this book very quickly, not because I am a misunderstood supergenius toddler, but because if I lost any momentum at all, I’d put this book down and never again be able to screw up the energy to deal with the pretentious little prick known as Ender Wiggin.
I really wanted to like the book. The basic outline of the story is fine and even appealing to me: kids being trained with video games from an early age to join a war effort. But the writing was, at times, excruciating. To be fair, had I read it when I was a (fairly average, I’m sure) 12-year old, I probably would have found it more enjoyable. But as an (average, again) adult, I found it to be about 100 pages too long and filled with long passages during which I developed a loathing of the main character at precisely the moment when the author clearly wanted me to admire his cleverness, strength of character, and bold moral wrestling. “Ooh, how deftly he wins the admiration of his peers by suggesting that bully is gay! Aah, the psychological pain he endures at being the best at strategy and physical combat! Oh, the bravery of joking with the black boy about how he’s a n****r! Oh why can’t he find a teacher who can teach him something he doesn’t already know!”
I was also continuously distracted by sentences like, “They pushed his face backward into the door.” What does that mean? If they’re pushing his face backward, does that mean his head hit the door? His face can’t hit the door if it’s not facing it.
Anyway. The final act started off well enough and brought everything to a satisfactory conclusion, and then the book continued on for another 25 pages that should be considered by nerds to be as unconscionable as the final episode of Battlestar Gallactica, where all reason and logic are dispensed with in favor of some weird fantasy that pretends to wrap up everything in a nice and neat bow.
It’s interesting to compare this to Dune, which I read last month. Dune does a similar thing (young adult-style writing about a young boy with great powers who will save the world) but does it without making the main character insufferable. Unlike Dune, I don’t think I’ll bother reading any other books about Ender, the universe’s tiniest supergenius.
Despite my hatred of the book, I’m considering seeing the film. I like movies about kids killing each other/other things. That’s not something I realized until recently, but it’s true: Hunger Games, Battle Royale, Lord of the Flies. Yep. I’m a sick woman.
Also, I suspect that the film will take care of most of the things I hated about the book; things that for some reason other people completely overlook in the book but if it were to happen on screen they would realize how stupid it is. Like:
- Ender is now definitely older than 6, and at an age where viewers can reasonably accept him to be the kind of supergenius he is in the book
- I bet Ender doesn’t call anyone a n****r.
- One of the adults (Major Anderson) is now a lady (played by Viola Davis). Equality, y’all.
- Harrison Ford is in it. Harrison Ford was not in the book and this was clearly an oversight.
- Harrison Ford is playing a character who, in the book, gets progressively fatter as time goes on. If this happens in the film, it could be as funny as when Lee Adama gets fat in Battlestar Gallactica and then he does a few push-ups and goes back to being super fit.
- The ending will be better. It has to be. The ending of the book was so stupid that there’s just no way it would have survived test screenings with normal, rational adults. I must believe this in order to continue believing in humanity.
There are also a few reasons why I am considering not seeing this film. They are:
- Orson Scott Card is a hateful homophobe.
Oh, huh. I guess that was the only reason, really. Card is still alive and thus will receive a good deal of profit from this film, so it does bear remembering that he is, by all accounts, a terrible person. By the way, he does make a flimsy defense of his homophobic 1990 Sunstone column here:
This essay was published in February of 1990, in the following context: The Supreme Court had declared in 1986 (Bowers v. Hardwick) that a Georgia law prohibiting sodomy even in the privacy of one’s own home was constitutional. I was also writing this essay to a conservative Mormon audience that at the time would have felt no interest in decriminalizing homosexual acts. In that context, my call to “leave the laws on the books” was simply recognizing the law at that time, and my call to not enforce it except in flagrant cases was actually, within that context, a liberal and tolerant view — for which I was roundly criticized in conservative Mormon circles as being “pro-gay.” Those who now use this essay to attack me as a “homophobe” deceptively ignore the context and treat the essay as if I had written it yesterday afternoon. That is absurd — now that the law has changed (the decision was overturned in 2003) I have no interest in criminalizing homosexual acts and would never call for such a thing, any more than I wanted such laws enforced back when they were still on the books. But I stand by the main points of this essay, which concerns matters internal to the Mormon Church.
The “main points” seem to be that gay Mormons will destroy the Mormon Church (go gay Mormons go!) and that they should be expected to meet the demand that they never give into temptation, an idea that of course has lead to horrific pain and occasional suicides for people who live their entire lives denying their sexuality. He argues that gay people shouldn’t be imprisoned or murdered – dear lord that would be positively Old Testament! No, instead this is how they should be treated:
Within the Church, the young person who experiments with homosexual behavior should be counseled with, not excommunicated. But as the adolescent moves into adulthood and continues to engage in sinful practices far beyond the level of experimentation, then the consequences within the Church must grow more severe and more long-lasting; unfortunately, they may also be more public as well.
It’s okay though, because Card has a lot of sympathy for them after they’ve had their lives destroyed.
Anyway. Harrison Ford, a fat suit, and zero G could still be worth it!