I have to admit – I hesitated to see “Ender’s Game” at first. I know that it is a classic Science Fiction novel and one that I should have read long ago, but I stopped reading most strictly Sci-Fi novels to focus on Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Mysteries. Mostly, I was uncertain about whether to see the movie because of the controversy over the author’s personal views about gays.
Now, I am an advocate for GLBT rights. I believe that you have no choice if you are attracted sexually to someone of the same gender or if you are born into what feels like the wrong gender body. Truthfully, why would anyone ever make that “choice” with all the negativity that comes along with it? Orson Scott Card does have a bias against GLBT rights, and so many who support those rights have chosen to boycott the movie (and probably his books).
While I have not read any of the “Ender” books, many years ago, I did read his novels about the “Seventh Son,” Alvin Maker, a fantasy series. I thought they were well-written and had some interesting concepts about religion and a messiah figure. There was nothing negative about being gay in any of the novels that I read. Nor was it an issue in the movie. I chose to see the movie because I believe that art is art, regardless of the artist, and that sometimes art informs us about the artist and his views and sometimes it does not. In this case, “Ender’s Game” can be seen completely separate from Card’s opinions about gays. However, it truly is a disturbing story in how it treats children and adolescents.
Asa Butterfield, as Ender, did a fabulous job carrying the tremendous burden of being a potential leader and hero for his people. As a “third” (apparently no more than two children per family are typically permitted) and the youngest family member to attempt to make it through the war program that both his siblings failed, Ender has high expectations set upon him and set by himself. Hailee Steinfeld shines as one of his team members, maybe not quite as brightly as she did in “True Grit.” Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Viola Davis are the adults who are training these children to be warriors and leaders, and they do a fine job at describing the balance of the needs of the children against the needs of the military.
Strategically, it is a brilliant concept to begin training children at such a young age and to expect excellence in such diverse topics as rocket science. Children are resilient and better equipped to learn than adults. Posing the training as games and competitions, particularly videogames, is particularly brilliant. In today’s military, some of the most successful members are those who played videogames as teenagers. However, when I finally understood the title of the story about halfway through the movie, I was ultimately deeply troubled by the concept. Only the ending resolution made the movie feel “better” for me.
Whether you are an advocate of LGBT rights or not, “Ender’s Game” is a fascinating look at military strategy and war. It disappoints me that its artistic merits will not be judged by those who choose to boycott it based on its author’s opinions. Ultimately, this is a movie that is ripe for discussion about honesty, manipulation, competition, warfare, and their effects on children and adolescents. I would highly recommend it.
As a side note, I am attempting to participate in the NaNoWriMo program this month. While I did not write anything pertaining to a novel, I wrote this piece and spent another 1,540 words on a draft letter I am preparing to submit to my credit score report. So at least I spent the majority of the day writing something!