So, I finally went to go see the Ender’s Game movie tonight, before it left the theaters. In hind-sight, reading the book cover-to-cover within 48hrs before seeing the movie was probably a bad call. If you haven’t read the book, I’d recommend the movie. If you have read the book, I’d probably still recommend the movie, in spite of my gripes (unless you’re one of those people who hate very movie ever made from a book, cause you’ll probably have an aneurism). After thinking through the movie on the way back, I talked myself out of most of my gripes (you shouldn’t have to do that for a movie), realizing that it was the limitations of trying to cram a six year story into a less than 2hr movie. But I did still have one pet peeve, and I’ll put my rant below the fold, since it contains spoilers for those who haven’t yet seen the movie.
Why did they have to have the Command School around a planet in another star system? Doing that was dumb on several levels. First off, it meant you had to screw with the fictional universe and introduce Faster-than-Light travel. Because if the fleet was less than a month out (as was shown in one of the Battle School scenes), that whole trip must have only taken a day or two. But if you had FTL like that, that in a few days could get you far enough from Earth for there to be a comms benefit (which is sort of silly when you have ansibles that communicate instantaneously across the galaxy), then why did they have to launch the fleet in advance? Why couldn’t they have just waited to give Ender more training time?
Oh, but you say they covered that by having him in that hypersleep looking setup during the trip. But the problem is they left a plot-hole. They showed the countdown clock to fleet arrival in an earlier scene, which bounded the trip time to well less than a month. And if he had really travelled relativistically but sub-light to another star system, Valentine would’ve been an old lady by the time he won, but it showed her as a kid. No, there’s no shaking the fact they introduced FTL.
Adding FTL to the story, when it’s pretty clear they want to do a sequel, really screws with a fundamental premise underlying all of the other books. All of those other books assume that humanity is stuck with sub-light (but relativistic) travel. That’s how Ender can be alive over a thousand years after the Xenocide, but still be in the prime of his life. That’s why they had a long time from when the second Xenocide fleets heads out to their planet to figure out what to do about it. That’s why when they do come up with jump travel in Children of the Mind, it’s so neat and unusual. In a universe where you can flit to other solar systems in a day or two, instantaneous travel isn’t that relatively big of a deal.
My other big gripe with having the Command School on a Formic world was the scene near the end where he goes to retrieve the egg. Seriously, you have a structure that’s less than a half mile from your main command complex, and you missed a ginormous queen ant there? You scoured the whole area room-to-room and didn’t notice? And when Ender walks back to base with this big weird pulsating alien looking thing, nobody notices? I mean Ender’s reasonably well built for a kid his age, but where exactly was he going to hide that? I mean you have the entire military leadership of the IF there. They just got through high-fiving you for destroying an enemy civilization, and you don’t think anyone would notice the egg?
As I said earlier, in spite of my reservations, I’d still recommend the movie, and give it a solid B/B+. It was mostly a lot of fun, and I thought the acting was reasonably good. So long as they don’t try to do a sequel, maybe screwing with a core underlying premise of the whole fictional universe won’t hurt anything. But if they do try to do a sequel, I wonder how they’re going to make the story from those books work in a world where you have Star Wars-esque FTL already.