I saw Ender’s Game last weekend and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. What impressed me most was how much a true children’s movie it is; like Asa Butterfield’s (Ender) previous movie Hugo, Ender’s Game neither winks over children’s heads to an adult audience nor sexes things up for putative YA interest. Although the rating is PG-13, I think ten is the perfect age for seeing this. Most of the larger and lengthier philosophical debates engaged in the novel through Ender’s older brother and sister are stripped away (the characters remain but are only occasionally and awkwardly deployed) but the messages about war and violence remain with enough complication to make young viewers think–by no means is this just a spaceplay movie. (Ethically, it was more complex than the lauded Captain Phillips, which we saw just after. Mistake.) But the action is great fun, and as Kent Turner points out over at SLJ, it’s “sleek but not-too-flashy,” which I take to mean you never feel that the special effects are taking over. The Battle School training was just as I had pictured it: So. Much. Fun. What I missed most from the book was Card’s expert handling of the Big Surprise near the end; in the movie it practically reads as an oh-and-by-the-way event rather than the psychologically devastating moment which changes Ender forever. So the ending kind of trails off, perhaps into a sequel?
I do want someone smarter than I to talk about the allure of fascism among children. The Lion King was practically Triumph of the Will for preschoolers, and Ender’s Game, especially in its film form, expresses a faith in leadership and destiny that is creepily unexamined. See also The Girl Who Owned a City and Redwall.