Sunday, November 3, 2013
Movie Review: Ender's Game
For once, all the hype was worth it. Ender's Game, based on the book of the same title by Orson Scott Card, is the first major motion picture to be based upon a classic sci fi novel since The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, and the first big film of its like to be released since Avatar.
Better than Star Wars? Maybe. Definitely if by Star Wars you mean any film which was released after The Empire Strikes Back. Better than Star Trek? Pick your film, but this one beats most of them hands down, and the ones it doesn't beat, it ties. Better than Avatar? Certainly. Yes, this one preaches a moralistic message at you as well, but unlike James Cameron's film, it doesn't seem preachy about it.
Better than Gravity? Well, Gravity is still the better hard science fiction film. Ender's Game still commits the atrocity of audible explosions in the vacuum of space. But E.G. is the better film of the two, overall. If you loved Gravity, you have no excuse not to see Ender's Game.
I finally got around to seeing this film over the weekend on a Sunday afternoon, and was rather surprised to find how empty the theater was. Granted, I did that on purpose, since I hate crowds, but I honestly thought I was going to have to deal with crowds anyway. Surely, Ender's Game, the one sci fi novel which ranks in the top five of nearly everyone's favorites list, and possibly #1 of all time, would have a huge drawing on each and every day. Of the great sci fi novels made into films, only Frank Herbert's Dune possibly ranks higher. So Ender's Game should be a guaranteed blockbuster, right?
Well, yes and no. Movie earnings are just not the same as they were when the first Star Wars movie came out, and people were going to see the film over and over again, leaving the turnstiles on the way out only to get right back in line again. In the late 70's, VCR's weren't even invented, waiting for the video to come out was a foreign concept, and the cinema was the only way to experience the thrill and joy of a movie without commercials. Today, people just don't want to spend $10 on a movie if they don't get to take it home with them. Waiting for the video to come out is common practice even for films which are highly anticipated these days, and its just not worth anyone's time to mess about with going to the theaters, unless it's something really mouth-watering.
But that's just my point. Ender's Game is indeed something really mouth-watering. It should have been at least as high-grossing at the box office as The Avengers, which made $207 million in its opening weekend, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, which made $483 million worldwide. Certainly it should have totally trounced the beyond-stupid sparkly-vampire film, Twilight: New Moon, which actually made $143 million. Gravity made $53 million.
So where the hell IS everybody? Opening estimates for Ender's Game put its opening weekend totals at only about $30 million, and that jibes with what I saw this Sunday afternoon. Typically, the following weekend will earn half that much, and another half after that. Based on that historical pattern, Lionsgate/Summit films will just barely recoup the $110 million it cost them to make the film before it goes to DVD, if writer/director Gavin Hood is lucky.
I can only assume that too many people are not aware of Ender's Game, or just how awesome a novel it both is and was. Word of mouth really makes a movie work, and people will eventually pass along what a great treat this film is to watch before seeing it themselves a second time. Star Wars opened up with the usual opening-weekend science fiction windfall, but nobody knew what a big hit it was until the film made even more money the following weekend. In the case of Gravity, which made $56 million on its opening weekend, the film went on to make $13 million in this current weekend, less than its opening weekend amount but beating the weekly half-life rule by a considerable margin. I can only hope that Ender's Game beats the trend as well. It certainly deserves to.
I'll admit to being biased because I read the book, and the book goes into great detail about why Ender Wiggin had to be a ten-year-old kid, which is perhaps the plot's weakest point. A child's mind, it is revealed in the film, adapts to new situations better than the mind of an adult does, and this tactical advantage is hammered upon again and again in the book. But in the film, the point is made only once, and then left to be abandoned. I can understand why some critics might be off-put by this. I, myself, when I read the book, found myself visualizing Ender growing up into a sixteen-year-old during his training, and completely forgot about his too-young age later on. Afterwards, I listened to the audio-book version, which featured an interview with Orson Scott Card at the end. He talked about the upcoming film production, and began to again state how important it is for Ender to be only ten, and why. But all his arguments sounded perfectly ridiculous to me! The person who convinced me that Ender Wiggin should not be depicted as a ten-year-old was none other than Card himself! So I can understand if many critics label this movie as being too similar to the film version of Starship Troopers. RottenTomatoes.com rates this film as a 62% fresh tomato. Not great, but better than most sci fi films, by far. And those who rated the film poorly all admitted to not having read the book. Big shock.
There may also be a certain anti-Mormon sentiment going on here. Orson Scott Card is indeed a Mormon, and is quite active and open about promoting the unbelievable bat-shit insanity which his faith entails. He has been very vehement about opposing gay marriage and so many gay marriage activists are calling for a boycott of the film. It could also be that people who disapprove of Mormonism in general will not go to see this film anyway, just as many did not go to see Battlefield Earth because they disapproved of Scientology, or boycotted The Golden Compass because its author Philip Pullman is an atheist. But Lionsgate has already issued statements that profits from the film will not be going to Card's estate, and that the plot of the film does not even deal with the subject of gay marriage. Both of these points are absolutely correct, and besides all this, you are hearing a ringing endorsement of this film from The Sacred Cow Wursthaus - a blog which, to be blunt, is no fan of Mormonism whatsoever.
In other words, go see this film! In fact, let's have gay couples get married while watching it, just to piss Orson Scott Card off! I see no reason why Ender's Game should be boycotted due to Mormonism after the success of Battlestar Galactica's reboot, since that plot line also came from Mormon writers.
Well, if the success of this film gives Card a bigger spotlight to preach his Mormonism, I say, good! Let him expose this stupid-ass shit for the lie it undoubtedly is! Only childhood brainwashing into such a ridiculous faith could train such an otherwise brilliant mind to be so stupid when it comes to his own personal beliefs. You know, I doubt even Ender Wiggin would be a Mormon.
But still a good film. Go see it!