Ender’s Game: Movie Review and Rant

***********Spoiler alert – may contain minor spoilers *****************

I just want to start by saying that I’m a big fan of the book Ender’s Game.  I had purchased 6 of the books in the series before discovering Orson Scott Card’s stance on homosexuality.  Being very close to a few gay people and having many other friends and acquaintances who are gay, that was not okay in my eyes.  And while I greatly enjoyed those 6 books and still reread them, I refuse to purchase any more of them.  I read online that in order to combat Mr. Card’s blatant homophobia, some of the proceeds of the movie would be donated to LGBT causes.  As such, I had no qualms with going to see the movie.

I read a lot.  A lot of my favorite books have been made into movies and TV shows. I can usually see issues from many different sides.  As such, I am usually able to make allowances when movies and shows diverge from the books. They cut Tom Bombadil out of the LOTR movies.  I could see why.  His presence diminished the perception of the power of the ring and he served no other real purpose other than a method to get through a forest that may or may not be the home of the entwives.  He would have taken up screen time that could have been spent on the main plot: the journey to Mordor.  They replaced Edric Storm with Gendry in the GOT series.  I could see why.  They had so many characters it was difficult to keep track of them all if you hadn’t read the books. Adding Edric Storm would have been more confusing.  I am not new to making allowances for movies.

Ender’s Game was no exception. Ender was older in the movie.  It would have been very difficult to find a six year old to act that way and a slightly older version of the six year old when time elapses further.  There were many little things like the appearance of the battle school, the fact that Eros wasn’t blacked out, or the fact that Ender’s final simulated battle greatly resembled his final battle in Battle School rather than the description in the book.  I can understand and explain away almost all of the diversions from the book — except one.

Maybe this is just a feminist rant and maybe I’m overreacting, but I did NOT appreciate this movie’s treatment of women.  At first glance, it looks like they tried to promote feminism in the movie.  Major Anderson was cast as a woman and there were more girls in the launchy class than in the books.  They also kept Petra Arkanian as a main character and even had given her more air time than the book character deserved.  It really looks like they tried to include women more in this movie than in the book.  However, in my opinion, they did so poorly.

First, I will discuss their casting of a woman to play Major Anderson. Major Anderson and Colonel Graff disagree and butt heads a lot in the book.  The same is true of the movie.  While I do not know if this was the fault of the actress or the director, the actress who played Major Anderson took her disagreements to a very emotional place, becoming almost a surrogate mother-figure who was always advocating for Ender.  In my opinion, she should have disagreed in a military-officer type of manner.  Sure, she can show emotion, but nobody who has achieved the rank of a Major in any military (male or female) would resign over losing many disagreements about the treatment of one boy. If they truly wanted to show a female high officer, they should have had her act like one. Having a woman act like a mother when in a high military office just reinforces the mis-conception that women are emotional and can’t handle stressful jobs and situations.

Secondly, the movies showed a number of girls in the launchy class. If I recall the books correctly, during the time Petra was enrolled in battle school, there were only two females enrolled there: Petra and Virlomi (who isn’t mentioned by name until “Shadow of the Hegemon”). The books offered a credible reason why there were so few girls in battle school.  Young girls are rarely aggressive enough to meet the battle school standards. Personally, in my years of teaching, it is rare to find an aggressive female 5-year-old.  I’m sure they exist, and they did at the battle school, but they are rare. Adding random girls to a group does not make it “gender equal”.  It’s like adding the “token” black kid to a group of friends in a TV show.  It really doesn’t help.

Finally, I was the most disappointed with the movie’s rendition of Petra Arkanian. In the books, Petra had tested so high in aggressiveness, they actually did DNA tests just to double-check that she wasn’t a boy.  She is described as having a “swaggering way of speaking, as if she cared about nothing.” Not so the Petra in the movie.  She was warm and caring.  They gave her one smart-ass line that was barely heard. The Petra in the books was an intelligent smart-ass.  The Petra in the movie was a sister-replacement and possible love interest (wtf!?).  In my opinion, movies NEED more strong female role-models.  And this one was already written into the books.  They just had to copy and paste some of her smart-ass one-liners into the script and get an actress who could somewhat convincingly deliver those lines.  Instead, there is a sweet pretty thing who can shoot well, but otherwise shows no real intelligence.

Movies don’t need more women playing mother-figures and sister-figures.  There are enough of them already.  Even movies with strong female characters play on the “mother-instinct” as a plot-point.  Elektra and Ultraviolet are two perfect examples of strong women who elect to help children they should have killed because their mother-instinct kicks in. Movies don’t need more women playing women who are lost without the man they love.  In my opinion, teaching girls that a man will make everything better and that their life will be meaningless without him is just wrong.  That’s why I refuse to read/see Twilight (among other movies). What I think girls need to see more examples of are women who pick up their lives and keep going after all is lost (Practical Magic). Women who can be a military leader without letting her emotions get in the way (The Avengers). Women who are too busy with the other crap in their lives to focus on love (The Hunger Games).  I’m not saying women can’t have emotions or they shouldn’t fall in love. I’m just saying that there is more to being a woman than being a mother, a sister, and a love-sick wreck.  End rant.

I’m not saying that the movie isn’t worth seeing.  It resembled the general plot of the books and the acting was very well done.  The visuals were stunning and the music added to the tension without becoming the main focus.  Overall, it was a good movie and I’ll probably buy it when it comes out on DVD. I just didn’t agree with how the female characters were portrayed.

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~ by Gunnvor on November 8, 2013.

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