Alasdair Stuart writes.
I read Ender's Game for the first time last year and really liked it. I still do. I think it's a very clever, compassionate story about war, the sacrifices that are made for it and whether they're actually required. For a lot of other people it's the tip of Orson Scott Card's iceberg of bigotry.
Whilst I wouldn't question for a second that Card's tediously overly articulated, passive aggressive beliefs are disgusting, I don't really see them in the story (yes, Buggers, I know, but I'd argue that's seeing Card's attitudes where, for once, they aren't) or in the film's trailer. I do see other things though. 9 to be precise.
1.Moya's back and she's PISSED
The Formics' ship designs, and tactics actually, are really interesting. There seems to be the same slightly stretched, snub-nosed approach that Farscape took with its Leviathan living space craft just…spikier somehow. Also note the sheer volume of Formic ships. That's a nice touch that I hope carries over to the film; the idea of vast, swarming fleets being outsmarted as much as they're out fought.
2.The Lake Scene
25 seconds in, there's a shot of Graff's staff car pulling up to a lake. On the other side of the shot is Ender and a small boat. This is one of the best sequences in the book and if it's made it to screen then I'm officially pleased. A lot of the emotional underpinning of the book revolves around this moment. It's a nice visual juxtaposition too; staff car, adult, maturity on one side and boat, child, innocence on the other. Guess which one wins.
3.Eyes of Battle
The cut from Ender's eye to the entrance to the Battle Room is beautiful and tells us a lot about the character. He's a child who sees things differently, indoctrinated and funneled, physically and ideologically towards the room where he's going to learn how to win the war.
4.Ender in the Middle
46 seconds in, sandwiched between some nicely blocky, functional Earth ships and the zero-g arachnid nightmares of the Formic cruisers we get our first close up on Ender. That has to be very specific placing; the kid in the middle of the war, the boy with the fate of two races on his shoulders.
Also if someone hasn't done a parody of (You're Not The) Boss Of Me with lyrics pertinent to Ender's Game, they really need to.
5.When Was The First War Exactly?
At 49 seconds we see a flash of the dogfight they used back in the first trailer. What jumped out at me then jumped out at me now; those are really contemporary looking planes the human pilots are flying. I'm don't think they're a specific modern day aircraft but the styling certainly evokes them. If they've moved Mazer Rackham's victory to Earth's atmosphere and the near future, as this footage suggests, then the main story can't be much more than a few decades later than that, possibly even at the back end of the 21st century. It's an interesting aesthetic choice and one that the technology and uniforms we see seems to bear out.
6. War Horses
One of the things that I'm genuinely excited about with this movie is the fact Harrison Ford and Sir Ben Kingsley share scenes. Graff and Rackham are fascinating, complex figures in the book and the film looks set to highlight both men's awareness, and discomfort, at what they're doing. This is going to be the key to making the entire film work; showing, again and again, that there is no definitive right answer, just a choice no adult could make and the effect it has on the child who makes it.
7.Kirk Would Be Proud
Three dimensional warfare. The sequence with Ender planting ships beneath the ice rings of a planet and attacking the Formics above it shows this is a film with an awareness of the opportunities space affords for both tactical combat and exciting action sequences. Plus it's beautifully, almost clinically shot.
At 1.20 we get a shot of him moving forwards into the Battle Room and it's a composition that's echoed up and down the trailer; Ender, dead center in the middle of carnage. Compare it to the ultra close ups of him as an individual and the restrictive spaces of Battle School. He's placed, again and again, at the center of events, simultaneously defining and defined by external forces. It's subtle visual composition and it flags up the conflict coded into the scene with raft as well.
At about 1.24 we get our first look at Abigail Breslin as Valentine Wiggin, Ender's sister. I'm really interested to see how the film deals with the other Wiggin children and the vital role they play in the book. I know Jimmy Pinchak's been cast as Peter and both Breslin and Pinchak are good choices. However, I can't see too much of the, initially dull but later fascinating, battle of political chess between the other Wiggins playing out on screen. My guess is one or two of the major beats will be there at least.
It's not all good news. I would have liked a lot less of what looks suspiciously like the final battle to be in there and whoever thought 'This Is Not A Game' was a good tagline for this wants a stiff talking to and no dinner. That being said, it looks like an interesting, confident movie that hits all the right notes from the book. Hopefully it'll find it's audience.