I saw “Ender’s Game” this weekend. I was both thrilled and disappointed. As I watched the movie, I had several thoughts on story and medium.
Subplots can be make or break
If you have read the novel Ender’s Game, you know that the story is pretty complicated. In fact, one subplot is so vital to the story that it effects the end of the novel and its sequels. Ender’s siblings engage in political espionage and fearmongering, eventually leading to a global unification and takeover. This in turn allows Ender to take a team of explorers and find a new planet to colonize, leading to him finding an egg containing a “queen” alien. This gives Ender a chance at redemption for the genocide he committed.
The movie is devoid of this plot. In fact they take all of the things it leads to and kind of rolls them into one sorry excuse for an end of a movie. It ceased to be a well thought out plot and became a rushed, “let’s make this movie less than 2 hours” piece of garbage. The falling action of the movie is quite literally about ten minutes long. the falling action of the novel is at least 50 pages.
All of this being said, I understand that it is nearly impossible to get everything in a novel on film. Every movie would probably be 4 hours long, minimum, which is not conducive to an ADD audience. However that shouldn’t be an excuse to ruin or almost ruin a story. Film is a wonderful medium, in fact it’s probably my favorite medium. I love visuals, seeing the action as opposed to imagining it. But the written word allows a complete description and longer story. The reader is saddened when the story ends, whereas a movie ending is just another part of the experience. Seldom have I heard a general public outcry of “I didn’t want the movie to end” (crappy Hallmark movies and grandmothers aside.)
What does this mean for writers? We have the opportunity to complete a story without making compromises. A story can be as long (or short) as it needs to be, without the restraint of running time. Let’s use this to our advantage, and write better stories. If I ever sell a story property for film, I hope everyone says that it was as good as the book, but I would definitely take “The book was better.”
Aside from it’s differences in subplots, “Ender’s Game” was visually stunning, and it did get some of the story aspects right. The battle room, in my opinion, was spot on (even though the story was shortened). Go see the movie, and for your own opinions. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. Remember that it was written in the 1980’s, predicting things that are commonplace in our lives such as the internet and very immersive video games. All in all, I give the movie a solid B.